School Daze

I am officially a student at the University of Minnesota. The process of taking classes is dizzying compared to what you had to do at Macalester. In a small liberal arts school, your options were pretty limited. At the U, its crazy. Each department lists their own requirements in their own way. There are different colleges within the University, and different departments within the colleges. As of yet I have no clue how my past credits will transfer, but I find it funny that I could get a degree (with 3 majors nonetheless) from a semi-elite liberal arts college, yet possibly not fulfill all the liberal arts requirements at a big land grant university.

I’ve signed up for one course, but I think I screwed up already (which doesn’t bode well for me I guess) and signed up for the wrong course. I’m prepared to take 2 courses this semester, but no more. Given that I should have most of the math and liberal arts stuff done already, that shouldn’t be too big of a deal. Honestly, I never liked taking four classes in a semester because I could only really focus on about 2 classes seriously (plus being on the debate team).

There are a LOT of departments at the U. A fair chunk of them are bogus. There are no subject that I think are off limits in terms of academic research, but there are a lot of subjects that I think we produce too many graduates in. Speech is a good example. I know, by virtue of having been in debate, quite a few people who have Ph.Ds in speech communications. Speech is good. Everyone should take a class or two in argumentation and persuasion. However, once you get beyond some of the basics, I’m totally at a loss for its relevance or need. This is a sore point because I know I’m basically saying that the chosen career of some of the people I know is bogus. If you look at a course catalog, I think that 10% of the speech courses are really, really valuable, and 90% are totally bullshit.

Do we need to produce speech Ph.Ds? Yes. How many need to get churned out in a given year nationwide? I’d guess less than what is produced now, but I conceded I could be wrong about the demand. Its not just true in speech communications. There is a glut of Ph.Ds out there in the humanities and social sciences. The reason why you see a glut of Ph.Ds in the humanities and a shortage in the hard sciences is pretty obvious, yet something which isn’t mentioned often: math and science is harder than the humanities. Period.

I think I can speak to this because I have taken ample classes in both. Look at the foreign students at any given American university. They are overwhelmingly in hard science departments. Why? Science = real jobs. Since my last post, no fewer than three people have told me they are considering going back to school to get a further technical degree. Why? More money.

At Macalester, I didn’t take biology or chemistry, but I remember hearing horror stories from my friends who took organic chemistry. It was the class that separated the poseurs from the studs. If you came out of it with a C, you’d feel happy because you at least got out of it alive. There was no such class in Political Science. In fact, Political Science was what you did if you washed out in biology/chem. No one washed out in Political Science.

I took Pol Sci classes to boost my GPA. Period. I attended some Pol Sci classes drunk. Hell, I got drunk in the middle of some. (Sean, if your reading this, you can vouch for me)

There was no way in hell I could do that in math classes (or economics for that matter). Traveling with the debate team was no problem taking Pol Sci classes, but it did hurt my grades in Math classes. My lowest grades in college were in Math, mostly because I’d miss half the classes in some parts of the year, and you just can’t do that and expect to ace upper level math courses. (If I could go back and do it over again, I’d either not debate, or debate all out and actually cut some cards and not take math classes)

My advise to anyone going to college is whatever you do, come out with something technical (that would include foreign languages) in addition to anything else you do.

During my undergrad years, my goal was to get my PhD in economics. (and win the Nobel Prize) Somewhere along the way I decided not to. I think it was a combination of factors that pulled me away from the grad school path.

1)My politics (or lack thereof) didn’t really fit into a career path that would have allowed for academic advancement.
2)I have little tolerance for political bullshit you have to put up with in grad programs, and for jumping through hoops they require.
3)I realized that my love of economics didn’t require further study nor devoting myself to a career in it.
4)I’d probably have been forced down some route where I’d have to focus on some obscure minor area of research, and that just doesn’t interest me.
5)I really prefer being a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. The marginal utility I get from the time spent learning something brand new is greater than what I’d get out of yet another econ class.

My Aeron chair broke again. The seat cracked in the same spot. I know its the symbol of 90’s over indulgence and speculation, but I love the chair and now I have to sit on a folding chair until I can get it fixed and my ass hurts.

By Gary

3 dimples. 7 continents. 130 countries.

3 replies on “School Daze”

Consider it vouched for. Although, as I recall, it wasn’t one of our most brilliant decisions – the class still sucked, we just had to leave every 10 minutes to take a leak.

Anyway, your lack of liberal arts classes may make you more marketable and richer, but it also means that the spelling in your blog entries sucks! “Conceed?” Ha, ha!

I’m going to go cry now, before my shift on the shake machine starts.

Sean, B.A. (English, Poli. Sci., Law & Society), M.L.I.S.

Four classes per term? WTF. I had to take 6 classes per term, AND I was a damn chemistry honours major. I didn’t just take organic chem (a different organic chem each year, no less) but 4 of its chemistry friends. And then a calculus elective, too boot. The only non-chem or non-math class I had a chance to take was in my first year, when I took an English writing requirement, and in my last year, when I took a history class because I had filled my math requirements.

And oh yeah. All those chem classes had 3-5 hour labs, each week too.

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