As freshmen, students have a plethora of majors to choose from. But, Virginia Tech requires us to take a variety of courses that will educate us beyond our field of study and make us better informed individuals— a.k.a. the Curriculum for Liberal Education.
Founded in 1872 as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, there was not much else to take—there were four academic departments: agricultural, mechanical, literary, and scientific and business, according to “A Short History of Virginia Tech.”
But through the years, the university administration decided a well-rounded education promotes a better understanding of one’s chosen academic discipline, whether that is horticulture or history.
Tech has come a long way in promoting liberal education requirements; however, the CLE often falls short on this promise.
For example, take a student who chooses to study engineering for the sole purpose of landing a good job at graduation. Sounds good, right?
“I’ll just take my engineering courses and get by on super easy electives so I won’t have to think too hard,” says the engineer.
Unfortunately, the CLE allows students like our happy-go-lucky engineer to graduate every single semester by allowing him to get by on easy electives. Going to college to learn only what you need, and taking little of what you do not need defeats the purpose of even going off to school. Unfortunately, many students go into college with this approach.
With a program like the CLE, that engineering student should leave Virginia Tech with an understanding of legitimate “critical issues in a global context” and actual applicable skills in “quantitative reasoning.” Taking a genuine Islam or Buddhism class can truly show you “ideas, cultural traditions, and values.” The problem is many do not. This could be due to the relaxed academic goals of the individual, or it could be a result of the institutional system.
The CLE was designed to promote the growth of a student’s intellect in all kinds of fields, not only the ones they choose. Nonetheless, the courses often required to meet the CLE afford students too much leeway in choosing certain courses and therefore tolerates intellectual laziness by allowing students to pick the notorious “joke” classes. Consequently, the quality of the education for which you are paying immense amounts of money is degraded.
Virginia Tech is a modern, forward-thinking institution, but it seems the administration does not realize how many students take intellectual shortcuts through the very system designed to eliminate them.
Programs like the CLE serve a good purpose in promoting diversity among the curriculum, but the system is filled with loopholes. Until the university closes these discrepancies, the student has to be in charge of their academic career.
My advice: branch out and take something you would not normally take.