Event Title

Why Undergraduate Majors Should be Abolished

Location

Mailman Auditorium, Mailman Hollywood Building

Start Date

24-1-2019 12:00 PM

End Date

24-1-2019 1:00 PM

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities

Description

The words ‘boundary’ and ‘border’ can be used synonymously to indicate a demarcation between things, a setting off of one thing as against another. Canada is not the United States is not Mexico, etc., because of borders. But these “things” or “categories of things” identified by their borders, are not natural things. We draw a line (real or metaphorical) around something and voila, a new thing comes into existence. Undergraduate majors are such created things.

Drawing borders, imposing boundaries can have any number of uses. Some good. Some bad. Some intended. Some unintended. And what we see right now in higher education with the use of majors are some good uses, some bad, some intended, some unintended. Because I believe the bad uses of the concept of the major now outweighs the good, I propose that the use of the concept of the undergraduate major be abolished.

Majors should be abolished primarily for two reasons. The first is that the concept of the major is obsolete. Knowledge continues to grow but does not usually fall into the neat categories of academic majors. This is recognized in NSU’s mission statement with its emphasis on “life-long learning.” Compelling students to focus on one major (or even two) contradicts this recognition of the need for life-long learning.

Secondly, the use of the major contributes to a pernicious “tribalism,” directly contrary to NSU’s core value of diversity. This tribalism infects both students and administrators. Once boundaries are drawn and tribes are identified, some tribes are valued, some de-valued. One can see this in some students’ disdain for any course outside of his or her major.

Among administrators, this pernicious tribalism sometimes manifests, for instance, in measuring effectiveness of a major by seat count, thus valuing some majors and de-valuing others according to how much they contribute to some overall goal as tuition revenue.

Of course, my proposal gives rise to many reasonable practical questions. What do we do with the current organizations of the university? Can our undergraduates students still have a chance to go to graduate school? What about our own graduate programs? Should they be reformed as well? I believe I have reasonable answers to these and other questions.

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Jan 24th, 12:00 PM Jan 24th, 1:00 PM

Why Undergraduate Majors Should be Abolished

Mailman Auditorium, Mailman Hollywood Building

The words ‘boundary’ and ‘border’ can be used synonymously to indicate a demarcation between things, a setting off of one thing as against another. Canada is not the United States is not Mexico, etc., because of borders. But these “things” or “categories of things” identified by their borders, are not natural things. We draw a line (real or metaphorical) around something and voila, a new thing comes into existence. Undergraduate majors are such created things.

Drawing borders, imposing boundaries can have any number of uses. Some good. Some bad. Some intended. Some unintended. And what we see right now in higher education with the use of majors are some good uses, some bad, some intended, some unintended. Because I believe the bad uses of the concept of the major now outweighs the good, I propose that the use of the concept of the undergraduate major be abolished.

Majors should be abolished primarily for two reasons. The first is that the concept of the major is obsolete. Knowledge continues to grow but does not usually fall into the neat categories of academic majors. This is recognized in NSU’s mission statement with its emphasis on “life-long learning.” Compelling students to focus on one major (or even two) contradicts this recognition of the need for life-long learning.

Secondly, the use of the major contributes to a pernicious “tribalism,” directly contrary to NSU’s core value of diversity. This tribalism infects both students and administrators. Once boundaries are drawn and tribes are identified, some tribes are valued, some de-valued. One can see this in some students’ disdain for any course outside of his or her major.

Among administrators, this pernicious tribalism sometimes manifests, for instance, in measuring effectiveness of a major by seat count, thus valuing some majors and de-valuing others according to how much they contribute to some overall goal as tuition revenue.

Of course, my proposal gives rise to many reasonable practical questions. What do we do with the current organizations of the university? Can our undergraduates students still have a chance to go to graduate school? What about our own graduate programs? Should they be reformed as well? I believe I have reasonable answers to these and other questions.