Oh man, did I make a mistake the other day. Like, a real “Learning Reconsidered” fail moment. One would think that as an individual who is earning a degree in education, I would properly consider all areas of education.
Here’s what happened:
I was asked to help judge the Mr. & Mrs. International pageant this past Friday at the institution of my graduate assistantship. This was a very exciting moment. Problem number one: no one told me how formal I was supposed to dress. So I was definitely the only male judge not wearing a sport jacket. Whoops.
While I was waiting with some of the other judges to move to our seats, I was talking to the man next to me – the chair of the math department. We got to talking about how I am taking a stats class for my grad program. I am, of course, slightly concerned. My bachelors degree is in words, numbers are not my thing.
I mentioned the last time I took a class, and used some vernacular that I had not even thought for a second about – in fact, I did not even realize what I said until the professor called me out on it.
“Yeah, I got my undergrad math requirement out of the way with a class on the history of math, where we talked about the meaning of infinity and Fibonacci numbers and stuff.”
Do you see it? Right there?
“Out of the way.”
“Oh, out of the way, huh?” the professor looked at another faculty member sitting across the table. “Don’t you just love when students get classes “out of the way?””
I think my face must have been as red as a cherry. I was so embarrassed at this mistake. Flashing through my mind were the pages of Learning Reconsidered – a document which advocates the importance of general education courses and poses that education is a holistic experience.
Out of this verbal faceplant came the opportunity for a really fun discussion on math for liberal arts students. Most liberal arts students are unlikely to use math beyond algebra, and the professor noted that classes where the concept of infinity or number sequences or how space is used are far more useful, and I agreed, sharing the benefit of my experiences.
To really educate students, it is important to give them tools for their own personal success, not a cookie cutter. Instead of shoving someone who is never going to be good at math in a million years into a calculus class, give them a chance to talk about the idea of numbers, what zero means, if you can subtract from infinity, and why Fibonacci numbers exist. Find a way to teach that science student how to write the types of reports they will need to write, not analytical essays on Moby Dick.
What do you think? Should there be more flexibility in General Education pattern options to better suit a students path? Or are there already enough options? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments