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Yes, You DO Have to Take THAT Class

November 02, 2015 by Coventry Kessler |

CrumpledPaperYou're returning to college because you finally know what you want to do and you've got to finish your degree. Now they're telling you you have to take required courses that have NOTHING to do with what you want to learn.

The last thing you want to do is slog through (1) Biology, (2) Western Civ, (3) Spanish, or (4) College Writing — any course that makes you want to pull out your hair and spit nails. Unfortunately, it's a requirement you can't wiggle out of. So. . . how to cope?

Here are some thoughts that might help the medicine, er, requirements go down more easily.

  1. You will learn something useful. For example, biology. Besides learning about cells, biological processes, and reproduction (interesting in itself), you'll also learn what makes a study reliable and valid so that you can accepts its claims. Did the researchers examine a big enough sample? Did the test measure what it said it did? Can the results be duplicated? Even, who sponsored the research? Learning to ask questions can help you assess other claims in the real world. Every class has something you'll find useful.

  2. It will help you understand the world better. The world is a complicated place. There are certain things every well-educated person should know. For example, how the scientific method developed and why we rely on it, how democracy arose and why we value it, how people operate, how the Earth and ecosystems work. The more you understand about the world in general, the better decisions you can make. This is the reason Thomas Jefferson believed that education was essential to a functioning democracy and why colleges and universities require general education courses in the first place.

  3. You might stretch your capabilities. Some courses have usefulness far beyond their immediate content. Philosophy, for example, focuses on thinking critically and logically, learning to analyze and evaluate arguments. The skills learned in philosophy are so valued that a philosophy major is often a springboard to law school, business school, and graduate school. Similarly, even if you don't like writing, English and literature courses can teach you to analyze interpersonal situations, argue with supporting evidence, and express your ideas logically — skills that come in handy in many situations.

  4. There's something to be said for doing something you don't particularly enjoy. Unfortunately, life is full of things we need to do that we don't want to do, from getting up early to exercise to paying taxes to taking care of that leaking roof. Putting your butt in the seat and doing the work for a class you don't like takes a big whopping bucket of self-discipline. Pat yourself on the back when you're done. It's good preparation for others times when you'll benefit from work you don't especially want to do.

  5. It might light you on fire. It's a story you hear over and over at universities. "I didn't know what I was going to major in, and this (chemistry/English/anthropology/French) prof just made it so interesting!" You don't actually know if you'll like something until you try it. So while you already know your passion, you might discover something else you also truly enjoy.
When all else fails, think of it this way: The next two to five years are going to pass anyway. The only question is, will you get your degree? Bucking up and grinding through that class you don't want to take will help you get where you want to go.


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