BY: DOMINIC PINO, OPINION EDITOR
Since every student is affected by the Mason Core, it is only fitting that students have a lot to say about it. By the time students enroll in college, they have been attending school for around 15 years. In any other context, people would call that experience, but for some reason, students are never afforded that status.
In all our years of school, we’ve picked up a thing or two about what we’d like to see from education. And before you dismiss us as a bunch of whiny kids, not one of the nine essays that follow in this section demands that classes be more fun or give less homework.
General education, broadly speaking, should be three things. It should be general, interesting and memorable. As it currently stands, Mason’s general education curriculum is random, inapplicable and tolerable. We have a lot of room for improvement.
Saying general education should be general seems unnecessary, but the current system is general in name only. It’s better described as random. The difference between general and random is the difference between a lamp and a disco ball — both shine light to all parts of the room, but only the lamp helps you see clearly.
The Mason Core is a disco ball. Pick a class from this list and another from this list and two from this other list. It lacks coherence and produces students who are randomly educated, not generally educated.
Worse yet from the student perspective, Mason Core classes aren’t interesting, which isn’t surprising since they weren’t designed to be interesting to all students. Most Mason Core classes are introductory courses designed to lay the foundation for majoring in a subject, yet most students in those classes will never take the next-level course.
As an economics major, I loved Econ 103 — it prepared me very well for my major — but I can totally see why non-economics majors would despise it. The details of the price-discriminating monopoly model are inapplicable to them, but it would probably be good to teach them the prisoners’ dilemma and the basics of supply and demand. General education should be aimed at what’s interesting to a well-rounded person, not to an aspiring specialist.
It’s not a far jump from inapplicable to forgotten. Students don’t come through the Mason Core with a serene expression, knowing they just absorbed knowledge they will cherish the rest of their lives. We tolerate those classes for just as long as we have to — and not a second longer.
Instead of creating a community-oriented learning experience that students will remember for the rest of their lives, the Mason Core is a forgettable string of prerequisites. There’s not a single Mason alum in the world today who meets another Mason alum on the street and says, “Remember Mason Core?”
This week, all my staff writers are covering Mason Core from their unique perspectives. We have students from all classes and from the Honors College represented. I’m really proud of the diversity of thought we’ve assembled, and it will make for some great reading (you can click on writers’ names to read their essays from this page).
Alex gives a history of the liberal arts tradition and explains how it could provide a model for the future.
In two online-only stories, Eli reminds administration of the direction the money flows — from students to the university, thousands of dollars at a time — and Sydney considers the money she had to spend on introductory classes for other peoples’ majors.
Dawson gives the perspective of a NOVA transfer student wondering what value the Mason Core adds that community college does not.
Finally, Jace provides a burn-it-down take that questions the very premises of general education.
Though you may not agree with everything they say, there are important takeaways in each essay, and Billy’s graphics are tremendous. Students have worthwhile opinions on education, and I’m thrilled to be able to highlight them in this section. So without further ado, I present to the Mason community a symposium of essays by students, advocating greater focus on students, to create a better experience for students in the new Mason Core.