Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Minor Problem

So, I realize this isn't Wednesday, and thank you for not calling me out on my tardiness. If you read the previous blog you should be up to speed on what I am discussing, if not, let me "bust a re-cap" which hopefully won't be too painful for you. Last week I discussed what I call "the Major problem" in academia. This problem, of course, addresses the distinction of major, and why it's a problem. Clever, eh?

Now, don't get me wrong, I think on paper, having a specific major is a great idea, and a wonderful way to pursue your interests, which I will be discussing this week. The problem really arises, when institutions make three mistakes.


First of all, most colleges don't take your particular distinction seriously, and therefore, you do not get preferential treatment paramount to your timely success. Now, this differs depending on the institution and what it values academically. So really it's less about what major is most important to the student and more about what major is most important to the school; I will touch on this in a bit. The second mistake is the wastefulness of the first two years of the students life either re-teaching them things they should have learned in high school, OR teaching them things that are of no value to the student's later academic career. Now some may argue it's good to learn a little bit of everything to develop the mind. Unfortunately, it is not the intention of the school to make you a well-rounded human being. It is clear that you are simply a number to them, and all of these extra classes equals more revenue. The third, but not final mistake being made in academia, is the emphasis placed on the professor/student dynamic: the closer you are to your professors, the more chance you have to squeak around the impenetrable red tape. Close can mean one or two things: 1) you could be on a friendly basis ie. a first-name basis, 2)you could be on a friendlier basis, hanging out after class, getting a drink together. With two consenting adults there is nothing wrong with this. A problem arises because the ass-kissing really needs to begin in freshman year for it to really stick. And that's when the ass-kissing becomes a bit inappropriate and untimely for an 18 year old.

What 18 year old, fresh out of high school, wants to suck up to his teachers, and hang out with them after class? One whose been doing it all of his life, that's who. But I digress...

It seems that if you have not honed your ass-kissing skills, if you want to get anywhere in your collegiate career, you need to start on-a-honin'em.

And so, those are three of the Major, conflicting problems in academia. Now onto the
premise of this weeks blog:

The Minor Problem(s) :

Some prospective students completely avoid taking a minor. I don't blame them. Why add another year onto your collegiate life sentence? But, what is so tempting about the minor, is the individual choice you make in a sea of requirements. So I can see the draw in that. Not to mention it makes you look really smart on your diploma. John Jacob Jingleheimer, B.S., Major: Neurophysics, Minor: Ballet dancing. The choice of minor is completely dictated by personal interest. But as far as academia, and the final result is concerned, the major is supposed to be your core subject of interest, and the minor, not-so-much. Therein lies a problem.

Another problem has to do with what is available to students. Deju-vu, anyone?
Your major may be English because you are interested in theater, but your school doesn't have a theater major. So you major in English so you can write, and you minor Psychology because that is what is available. So much for pursuing your interests. This completely made up scenario was brought to you by the letter E. It may not completely illustrate the problem, but I think you might get something out of my own personal experience.

What did you take in college?

Thanks for asking!

After screwing around my first two years, because my B.S. detector's bells and whistles were going off like crazy, I decided to get serious. I transfered in a four year program at Cal State University to Major in Literature and Writing and minor in Sociology. I did this for two reasons, 1) I knew I wanted to be a writer, and after majoring in Communications, doing film work, working at a radio station, and your general putzing around, I still really wanted to be a writer.
2) I had finished my first two years of GEN ED becoming extremely interested in sociology. I loved the study of people and their behavior. I liked Psych too, but it was too scientific for me.
Soc was perfect! Somehow I got it in my head that Literature and Writing and Sociology were the perfect combination of interests. I thought: "This is great!" "I will study people and how they behave and then I will pool my knowledge and then write about people and how they behave!" It seemed highly logical at the time.

When I got to Cal State, which is a WONDERFUL school compared to some of the other slop-houses I've attended, I kind of hit a brick wall. I was faced with four more years of school if I wanted to minor in Sociology. This is after already doing two years.
So I dropped the minor. Funny thing, this "dropping the minor" business. You find out pretty quickly that even without your minor you still need 30 credits of electives for your major. Do you see what I'm getting at here?

So although my dream of seeing : Amy Marie Duda, B.A., Major: Literature and Writing, Minor: Sociology became, Amy Marie Duda: B.A. Major: Literature and Writing, I could live with that. Mostly because I ended up taking six classes of Sociology anyway, and then fell upon the "cursed" Women's studies. I'll get to that later!!

But, my interests are roller-blading, moonlit walks, and data entry.

So even though I only have a major in Literature and Writing now I have a wealth of knowledge in the Sociology field. How did that happen. So wait, let's rewind, I KNOW a lot about Sociology at this point, but I don't get credit on that incredibly important piece of paper for it... GAH!
At least those "electives" weren't wasted on things I was not interested in.
So let's consider this issue of "interest" shall we? Many colleges, with their shiny and colorful recruitment packets, pretend to care what it's students are interested in.
But, I'm sure you have guessed, by now, they don't. They care about what THEY are interested in, for the most part, and what brings them in money. They could have a booming Women's Studies program, that many people are attending, but some nutjob on the board is going to say that there are more students in the Sciences than the Arts and the arts should be cut and Women's Studies falls in the fluffy not-needed arts category. Ok, Ok, enough rambling, I think I have come up with a solution.

Sigh, What's the point?

Hey, now, buck up soldier! I know this all seems bleak. You don't really have much say in what you want to take, and even when you do, you don't have much say in how long that will take. And once you get to be adult-age you will be wondering why you still have no say in the course of your own life and how your time is spent. But all is not lost! The solution I have come up with is simple. It starts in Kindergarten. Decide in Kindergarten what you will want to do for the rest of your life and never, ever change your mind! Remember that question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Don't answer it in passing. Study for it like it's an entrance exam. Don't say "Fire-fighter", or "Mommy" say "Business Executive", or "Brain Surgeon", or "Fast Food Restaurant Manager" and be certain about your choice! Puff up your chest and say it with authority! That way, by the time you get to college, you will know exactly what school to attend that is fitted to your needs, instead of having to cow-tow to some institution's idea of what your needs are. While in school, and having your needs met you will know exactly what classes to take to fit your interests. No wishy-washy, party-harty freshman here! You are all business! Plus, you've been studying your area of interest since Kindergarten, so you know a lot about it. You're practically in genius standing! You could probably test out of all of your classes! No need to kiss ass when you have the genius-pass!

Where was I going with this? Oh, right. PLAN AHEAD. That is the bottom line. Unless you have money out the whazoo and can afford to screw around. My next blog will talk about how exactly you can plan ahead, regardless what stage of the game you are in.

Stay tuned.


  1. Plan ahead. Now why didn't I think of that? Oh, right. I did... :(

  2. I know you did, babe, and you've had a pretty good run thus far...and I think you can thank all of that planning for that. The stuff happening to you is the B.S. red tape I referred to, that in most cases only ass-kissing and favoritism helps you avoid. Both of which suck.

  3. yeahhh. I was a French minor, and that's probably what I'll wind up doing with my life rather than doing something associated with my majors. :-)

  4. right on! fight the power Dana! hahaha

  5. I think all this BS is why I've yet to actually finish college. lol All the useless classes that had little or nothing to do with what I was actually interested in bogged me down and stressed me out. And then looking at other colleges and all their requirements? Same BS. So, I've yet to buckle down and have the patience and stress relievers to get my degree in anything.

    Maybe one day. lol

  6. You will really appreciate my second blog post then, which talks a lot about the first two years, and how they set you up to fail. It's based on research I did and everything, and not just personal experience! lol...


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