ISSUE-115

Claim: Colleges and universities should specify all required courses and eliminate elective courses in order to provide clear guidance for students.

Reason: College students — like people in general — prefer to follow directions rather than make their own decisions.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.


Should colleges and universities specify all required courses and get rid of elective courses for their students? Some would vote “yes” for this proposal, with the argument that selecting courses on the students’ behalf could provide clearer guidance in education. In addition, they argue that students, like people in general, prefer to follow directions instead of making their own decisions. While it is true that there are certain benefits of specifying required courses, I cannot agree with the proposal and the aforementioned argument in support for it. The main reason of my position is that higher education should be aiming to facilitate the well-rounded development of individuals and that students should be allowed to select courses according to their interest.


To begin with, let’s start with the claim that students, just like the public in general, do not like making their own decisions and are happier when they just follow others’ instructions. This claim cannot be further from truth. As of now, in our world today there are many instances where people walk onto the street to protest the directions made by the government and call for their voices to be heard. Some of those protestors are college students, which clearly refute the notion that students are more willing to follow orders without making their own decisions. This example vividly illustrates one aspect of human nature. That is, no one would like to see his or her fate in the hands of others. As a result, it has almost become a survival instinct that one will try to decide for him- or herself.


Now that we have demonstrated the weakness in the reason offered by some for a required college curriculum, does it mean that universities should not specify required courses at all? While I do think so, certainly some people would disagree. One of their strongest arguments they tend to make is that the purpose of education is to select talents for the society. Consequently, in order to effectively identify talents, it is crucial to have a standardized system of evaluation. Apparently, if students select courses according to their will and do not have required courses that everybody takes, a serious problem will emerge: what will a standardized test be based upon? The diversity of one’s interest will most likely mean that the classes students take will vary widely. In this scenario, it will be extremely hard to compare and evaluate, for example, two students, one of whom is interested in ancient Greek and Roman mythology and the other takes advanced courses in cosmology.


Admittedly the lines of reasoning above seem reasonable at first glance, and I don’t necessarily disagree with the assertion that the goal of education is to identify talents. However, it should be pointed out that while such a goal may be applicable to middle or high schools, it is not the purpose of higher education. Granted, education before high schools is aimed at imparting basic knowledge and common sense onto students to prepare them for working and living in the modern society. This is why almost in every nation on Earth, curriculum before and during high schools are preset by educators. The same is not true for college education, the true purpose of which in my opinion is to allow individual students to develop their own interest and become a specialized expert in certain fields. If universities specify all required courses without any offerings of elective ones, it would be hard for students to discover what they are truly interested in. Clearly, this is detrimental to the development of students’ capabilities and in direct contrast to the vision of higher education. One example for my position comes from the current education system in U.S. colleges, where students are free to explore classes both inside and outside of their major fields of study. Many observers have attributed the remarkable science and technology achievements made in the United States to this liberal college educations, which lends support to my argument above.


To sum up, I have demonstrated that students as well as people in general do not prefer to follow orders but instead actually would love to make decisions on their own. Furthermore, because the purpose of higher education should be allowing students to freely explore their interest, colleges and universities should not specify all required courses and eliminate elective classes.




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