Edit desk: A more versatile education

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Jake Epstein

If high school is to prepare us for college, and college is to prepare us for the ‘real world,’ I get the feeling that many students across the country will graduate completely unprepared.

Take a look at our requirements for graduation at Lehigh. Regardless of our majors, we are expected to complete various credits of humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Many students opt for the easy choices, the ‘GPA-padders.’

More so, it seems ridiculous to me that some students are required to take a specific math class for an unrelated major, or two natural science classes and a lab when many of these concepts might never be applied in our everyday lives.

There are certain subjects I believe should be mandatory for college students to understand. Whether this come in the form of a mandatory group of classes that each cover a necessary topic, or a single class that briefly covers a wider range, every student should graduate from college knowing about our government, at a local, state and national level. 

Every student should know the working of a stable democracy, how ours functions and how it compares to other nations.

Students should understand health care, welfare and what we’re fighting for overseas.

How can a 22-year-old be expected to make competent choices on a ballot if they don’t know what they’re voting for? If they don’t understand the stakes of a particular election?   

Every student should know about the history of his or her own country and the history of modern democracy. We’re fortunate enough that we don’t live in an authoritative or totalitarian state and we should be aware of how we got here.  

The French Revolution. Nationalism, Marxism and Capitalism. Both World Wars. Current events, terrorism and the rise of populism. These are all crucial topics to know if we want to truly understand how our society functions. 

These themes shouldn’t just stop at America’s borders, however. They should apply across the globe. To graduate with an ‘America first’ mindset is a dangerous game, especially if we are single-minded and only care about our own society.

It’s important to be empathetic to other societies. We should look at the Latin American migration crisis and be heartbroken and eager to help. The significance of Notre Dame’s inferno and the destruction of historical sites by the Islamic State in Syria should shock and appall us.

We should know why it’s so strange that President Donald Trump backs Saudi Arabia, despite the regime murdering a Washington Post journalist.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that I know basic statistics and the principles of economics. I’m glad that I know rock formation and the process behind glaciation. I’m glad that students have opportunities to take classes that interest them, or to even take the easier ones to support a transcript.

But if universities can define what subjects students should well-versed in after satisfying the general requirements of their majors, they should also promote that students learn the values and topics that will help us be the most educated, well-informed and contributing citizens we can be.

College is a marketplace of ideas. Students come from different backgrounds, from stateside and overseas. With an information overload of various opinions and perspectives, students should be expected to graduate with the necessary facts and historical backgrounds that help support these beliefs and judgments.

Jake Epstein,’20, is the lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]

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3 Comments

  1. This is the most insightful editorial this year. Jake is so correct & the professors that would teach these courses need to be fair & balanced.

  2. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    “If high school is to prepare us for college, and college is to prepare us for the ‘real world,’ I get the feeling that many students across the country will graduate completely unprepared.” I would prefer that real world knowledge be taught in high school being that many will not make it to college. As an engineering graduate, I had limited opportunities to choose courses attuned to making me a better citizen. I like to think that being a Civil Engineer makes me a good citizen, ROTC and freshman world history courses were the only additions to that. Attention to current news through reliable sources and a general inquisitiveness should be almost all that is additionally needed. Probably more important is learning to be a decent human being unfettered by greed in its various forms; if taught it seems to be forgotten.

  3. If Jake’s ideas were actually taught in school Bernie Sanders would be at the bottom of the polls and every state would be red in 2020.

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