Monday, March 15, 2010

The Major and Minor Problem.

Hi there, and welcome back. This blog is going to address the issue of colleges getting in the way of it's students' success. That's quite a mouthful, but let's begin. First I want to discuss what I prefer to call:

The Major Problem.

If you are unaware, this is a play on words, really. The most pressing problem I see in academia is the distinction of Major. First of all, so many majors are seemingly distinct by name, but really have you taking many of the same courses in the first two years. At the blissful first hours of orientation, as far as the student is aware, they are a Literature major and in fact in a separate faction of learning than their friend the Dance Major. They would do well however, to get to know each other. Maybe even room together. They will be seeing a lot of each other in the next two years. The school most likely views the Literature and Dance major as cut from the same cloth. Students both pursuing liberal arts degrees, they are viewed as similarly ineffectual, but fiscally necessary. Schools attempt to be somewhat transparent about this. They will tell you that your particular department is either in the "Arts" or "Sciences" and you will receive a degree based on that distinction. What they do not tell you is, that because you chose a "creative" mode in life, you will be forced to be savvy and creatively teach yourself. I'll get to that in a bit.

Before I do, I need to concentrate on one particular part of this problem. Whether you attend University, Community College or a Private Institution, you have to know going in, that your first two years are completely useless. That is not to say that you will gain nothing in those first two years, on the contrary. But the classes you choose to take have no impact on your eventual ambitions whatsoever. In fact, I suggest not making any decisions about the classes you take in the first two years. Have your advisor print up your itinerary of required classes, hand it to you, and create your life around them. If you have done everything "correctly" up until this point you will only be 17 or 18 years old, so you can be flexible. On this itinerary, there will be roughly 60 credits worth of GENERAL EDUCATION. These classes, about 20 or so, can be split into 5 classes per semester, 2 semesters in a year. There you have it. So simple. If you take all of these classes, and of course when you should, you will have learned enough highly useful information to qualify you to enter into studying your major! If you do it that way you will be done your first two years... in two years. Bravo!


It's not that simple, you say?
Well how can that be? You are told the classes you need to take, which are the same, whether you major in Psychology or Basket-weaving...what's the problem?

Oh look! more “Major” Problem(s)...

What schools are offering vs. what they require, is one of the major problems in academia.Imagine this scenario. You are a 19 year old college Sophomore. You have taken 57 of your required General Education credits. You do fairly well for a Dance major forced to take Advanced Biology and Trigonometry. You look at your itinerary that your wonderfully helpful advisor has given you and see that you have checked off all the required classes, all but one. English 102. English 102, is a course required for you to complete your degree. You are anxious to start taking your first Dance Choreography workshop, so you go to your advisor. He/she agrees that you MUST take this class next semester, and would be foolish to put it off. He/she has a plethora of information about how you can get around the class, but is either fiscally or morally obligated to keep quiet. He/she looks at her computer screen for what is available next semester. English 102 is not on the list. How can this be? Isn't English 102 required of all of it's students? It's an imperative course, in which a student learns how to properly indent and use commas! How can you even be a successful dancer without this information?! Biting your lip and praying for a solution you ask your advisor what can be done. Play-acting bewildered they say:

We're clean out of English 102's, might you try Native American History?

There are so many things wrong with that scenario, I do not know where to begin. Well, I guess I do. First of all, remember how I mentioned that your advisor knew ways for you to get around taking the class, but for some reason, didn't say anything. Yeah, I have a big problem with that. I am still in the process of figuring out why this is, beyond the most obvious and glaring reason, to get more money out of you, which is a recurring theme here. So you take Native American History (good for you). You fill the hole in your schedule with a "useless" class, not one with useless information per se, but one that does not give you the required credits to check off. You leave Native American History with a renewed understanding of injustice, still three credits shy of being a Junior. Ah, the irony. Yes, you wasted your time, Yes, you wasted your money, but you know what you have now, my friend? Something that isn't measured in credit hours: Life Experience! Yes, life experience doesn't get you a degree, but it will get you further in life than a degree would in some cases. So what did you learn from that experience?

Wut tey learn-ned mee in skool

Yes, of course life for this would-be Junior, and Dance major isn't all bad. She has her friend the Literature Major, who she spends a great deal of time with. They both sat in much of the same classes, taking Adv. Bio and Trig, one that the Literature major almost failed. But the Literature Major is highly upset when she finds out about the English 102 class from her friend. Not only is it a GEN ED REQUIREMENT FOR EVERYONE, but it is affiliated with her major and is all the more required for her to take. Luckily, the Literature major is friends with one the professors of English in her department. She confides in her professor friend who tells her that she will talk to the prof who usually teaches English 102. She is on sabbatical this semester, but she is more than likely to come to campus and give such a promising lit major a test-out session for English 102.

:D !!!!

What's a test-out session?

:/ Oh.

Well, it's...

Hey wait you don't know about it? Well you're going to have to find out for yourself, because, evidently, it's a huge secret in academic circles!


Just kidding.

the first amendment gives me the right to tell you, so I will.
A test-out session is when brown-nosers, I mean, students who are friendly with faculty, take a written test made up by the professor who teaches the class that is unavailable. Sometimes it's even for classes that may be at an inconvenient time or in some cases, too expensive for the student. All the student has to do is somehow prove to at least one professor that he or she is brainy enough to "not need to take the class". Then the professor, who has a pre-made test all ready for such an occasion, will administer it in a hush hush top-secret after class "in my office" session. If the student passes (hallelujah!) they just squeaked around taking an expensive English course and spared about 6 months of their life. Get the picture? This is just what the Literature major did. Wouldn't you do it? The only problem is, the Literature major is in a moral dilemma. She cannot tell the Dance major who could benefit from taking the test. Why not? Well, it would only cause confusion, and problems between her and her favorite professor. Because the Dance major is well a dance major, she cannot get permission no matter what she does. In fact even if she asks the very same professor about the very same test, she will be give the stock response "You're not an English major, so I don't think you could pass it." Translation: "You're SOL, baby"Thus driving a wedge between the Literature major and Dance major,who got an A in Trig but is too dumb to test out of ENG 102. That's OK, that just gives her more time to go to the Y and take a dance class, since she still hasn't taken one at her school!!!!!

I like you, you hate me, that's what college is for me.

So, I mentioned earlier about being savvy, and learning to creatively teach yourself. Well, it's situations like the previous one and many others in which you will find yourself having to do so. Hopefully you will have people close to you, who will help you out. For God's sake, listen to these people, especially if they are giving you advice on how to find scholarship money, or just make your time easier or more enjoyable. You will find, however, that some people are very
competitive, or arrogant and will withhold information that could be very helpful. Something that I have noticed that most colleges encourage. Every woahman for her/himself!

Let's bust a re-cap

So what have we learned so far about a successful collegiate experience:

1. The first two years are highly unnecessary to your major and what you want to get out of your college experience, so get them over with as soon as possible. In fact try your hardest to just take all of the classes required of you with 100's and 200's in them NOW. You'll thank me later.

2. If you did your first two years right, you know just as much as everyone else who did them. Now the next two years are about being put into a caste system of how much ass you kissed. Enjoy!

3. Kiss a lot of ass. Kiss as much ass as possible, especially ass you don't know very well. The more ass you kiss, the more favors you will get from people. It's unbelieveable. You can try asking questions, pestering, and being annoying, but then people will just ignore you.

4. Don't take any classes that make you a more intelligent, more well-rounded human being. They aren't required of you and you're just wasting your money.

5. Make friends with cool people, or don't. They're just getting in between you and the asskissing anyway.

6. Spend a few hours in the library reading up on your major. Or take classes outside of school on the subject of interest.You won't get any of this information for two whole years remember? And you'll be ahead of the game once you do.

On Wednesday I will be discussing ....The Minor Problem as it has to do with interest vs. necessity as well as what I like to call "the major segregation".


  1. academic advisors are completely worthless. the only reason I graduated college in five years while pursuing two majors and a minor was because I chose the classes I wanted to take by myself and overloaded my GenEds when I could so I'd get them all out of the way. I had to FIGHT with my advisors to get them to give me permits for certain classes that fell outside of all the activities I was involved in. they just didn't want to hear that their department's coursework wasn't the first thing on my life to-do list.

    bah, I so feel your frustrations, Amy...

  2. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT....that's all I did...and I had to do it to get what other people were handed. Still...It's good to know you can fight for would be nice if all of these ridiculous roadblocks were not always in our path. Still....I would only write the happy stuff no one reads...I guess it's a trade off XD


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