Logic and the Liberal Arts: You’re Doing It Wrong


I may not be a smart woman, but I know what common sense is. This current absurdity defies all definitions of the word.

I chose to attend a liberal arts college; Houghton College, to be exact. I remember being rosy-cheeked and about fifteen pounds lighter when I made the journey four hours to the scholarly garden where I would become the most desirable of creatures – the well rounded, well learned Adult! I love the idea of being so doused and immersed in a whirlpool of academics that I never dried out. I had dreams of being this princess of the career world, having been taught all of the essentials to life and knowledge and the histories of ancient worlds. I would integrate faith with learning, be able to discern worldview and have the right to speak my mind soundly on topics of importance. Employers would scrabble and drool over my resume, fighting like starving jackals over my name on their company’s publications. There was no way I could fail, not with the naïve hope of simplicity drifting behind me like a graduation gown! College or bust, baby!

I should have smelled danger when they handed me my audit sheet and told me I was its sole master. I treated it well, filling in the blanks a few semesters at a time, completing it piece by piece. Even after all the positive feedback I gave it, it hates me. It was turned against me by Integrative Studies, the festering blister on my feverish junior mind. It shall be the death of me yet.
In investigating my options for the waning three semesters I have left at Houghton, I discovered that I have a few integrative studies requirements that have not yet been filled under the new system. No worry, I thought, I’ll take courses that fall under those categories and I’ll be set. Ooh look, posters advertising Aesthetics!

Now you would think that it would naturally make sense to have a college student take classes that would benefit or enhance their chosen major. When there are classes offered that cover a required subject and still relate to the student’s major of choice, it’s a nice compromise. But when those courses are not sanctioned by a Holy Administration to fill the general education requirements invented by liberal arts colleges, it puts me into a raging fury. This is my education and my money that I am spending to sit through the college’s laws on everything under the sun. I won’t drink; I don’t really care for alcohol anyway. I will go to chapel because you want me to be part of your spiritual community and I don’t want to make waves. I love fellowship and worship with my fellow believers in the faculty and student body. I will go for weeks without knowing how many meals I have left in the cafeteria because for some reason our new and improved technology can’t even keep track of numbers, but so help me, the least you might do is giving me the power to fill these silly requirements while still making sense in terms of my major.

I am double majoring in writing and art with concentrations in Photography and Printmaking. I have already begun my career as a published journalist and photographer someday hope to make my living as such. I have been blessed with loving parents who hoped to further my career by allowing me to attend the college of my choice, regardless of the cost compared to other competent schools. Both my majors are formed on the core ideas of communication and philosophy, but you need me to take classes to put the golden checkmark on my academic record. Especially with the new 2/4-credit system, spaces in semesters are filled up much faster. While it’s nice to have fewer classes overall, it means that fulfilling requirements feels like twice the effort for half the reward. No more sleep for Hannah.

When I asked Academic Records directly about why Introduction to Digital Imaging, a class that is unique in that it can be categorized as either art or communications, the response I received said that “The Communication department has decided that Digital Imaging fits into their major, but not that it is sufficient for a Communication class within Integrative Studies.” Pardon my impudence, but who are you to decide what is or is not sufficient in terms of Integrative Studies? One definition of the term is “making connections within a major, between fields, between curriculums, co curriculum, or between academic knowledge and practice.” Digital imaging has been deemed worthy enough to be considered Communications, but even though it makes connections both WITHIN my major and between curriculums, it’s not good enough? Shouldn’t I have some right to decide, though limited by general subject matter, the specific class that I take to fill a certain mandatory requirement, especially when it weaves into my major like a thread holding a seam?

I try and schedule flexible classes under a fairly rigid system in order to pay my dues while still getting through college in four years. I have not wasted my open credits since they were spent taking classes needed for my double major and other I.S classes. I was indulgent with a few electives… oh; wait, only pertaining to my major. I have kept my nose clean and even gone out of my way to take journalism May term in New York City to help reinforce my writing credits needed for graduation. I scratched and bit my way through Math and Bible classes that, ultimately, will not likely show their face again in relevance to my career or future. Trust me when I say that I’m not complaining about the requirements themselves. I knew what I was signing up for when I applied to Houghton and I’m all for ending my time in college with a well-rounded and expanded knowledge of a variety of subjects. When it comes right down to it, I’m also all for self preservation.

When it comes down to it, we’re just making this more complicated than it has to be. I need Communications credit? I will take a four-credit Communications class. I need philosophy? I’ll take a philosophy class that feels tailor-made for my major. I still need to take foreign language since my high school only offered two years of American Sign Language. I will be taking my search for an accredited ASL class elsewhere since that is a language that I enjoy and excel in. I was not fortunate enough to be raised in a foreign country where my life filled my language requirement. I will do what I need to do here to get my diploma, but I will not surrender my right to have a say in how exactly I achieve this goal. This absurd hedge-maze that I’ve gotten lost in is positive only in the fact that I know there are others who are lost with me. It’s also not a hopeless case. I will be filling out academic appeals these issues. Houghton College, I thank you for offering me a wide and flavorful banquet of classes from which to choose from, but you can’t have a balanced diet when key ingredients are missing. I cannot live on bread alone – I really like butter and jelly to break up the taste. Last I checked a pat of butter – a slight indulgence that is not unreasonable – did not break the bank.

Published in the Houghton Star

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About SisyphusFalls

I have been writing ever since I could read, and before that simply using my imagination. I write, think and love deeply.

Posted on November 6, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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