I read with interest – more than once, in fact – Jake Nelson’s April 3, 2014 column in The Springfield Student entitled “General Education.” As someone who is responsible for overseeing and helping to strengthen many of the courses at Springfield College that are central to “general education,” it was important for me to pay attention to Jake’s remarks.
His column shows a flair for creativity, and he certainly conveys a sense of himself as an independent thinker – both characteristics that are central to the mission of general education at colleges and universities across the United States. Jake’s statement that he “believes he can contribute something new and fresh to the world,” his assertion that he wants to be an “outlier” (in contrast to the predictable patterns he learned to identify in his stats class) all speak to me of someone who is well ready to graduate and, to use a clichéd phrase quite common at this time of the academic year, to “make his mark on the world.”
For that the Springfield College faculty can take some portion of responsibility, even those teachers who provided the general education courses Jake currently dismisses as being without value. I will hope at some later point in his life that the writer will reflect on at least some of what he learned in general education coursework on this campus as being similar to his high school French class, where he was taught “a hell of a lot about what it meant to be educated.” The rich array of courses offered under the general education category, when carefully selected and prioritized for an individual student’s interests – not taken in the final semester of college under pressure to complete one’s degree – can also teach “a hell of a lot about what it means to be educated,” but even more so, these courses teach a great deal about what it means to be human.
I love knowing that one of our students who is about to graduate reads religiously the foreign affairs section of Forbes, has traveled widely, and has a passion for Aristotle. Each will serve Jake well across a lifetime – no matter what his professional or career path may be. And each of these interests is smack dab central to what the best of a general education curriculum should provide.
Best of luck to Jake Nelson and all of The Springfield Student writers who are graduating and have served so well this campus community during their Springfield College careers. Go make your mark on the world. We will be watching for news of your future journeys.
Dr. Anne Herzog
Dean of Arts, Sciences, and