Friday, January 26, 2007

Undeclared, undecided, uninformed, and unformed 

At Phi Beta Cons, there's a note about Boston College eliminating majors for freshmen. (Notice, PBCs -- the preferred term is "first-year students".) They are encouraged instead to explore more, a policy that should lead to "increasing self-knowledge, reflection, and maturity in decision-making." Kristin Deasy thinks we should be developing students' ability to decide on majors in high school, but I disagree. I would ask instead -- what is it about any field that requires one to start as a first-year student on an education path different than those in other fields? If your answer is 'nothing', then why wouldn't you instead have these students all take a common first-year curriculum? Deasy notes that European students choose their fields of study much earlier ... but that hasn't really helped unemployment rates of college graduates there.

You might train people in logic and critical thinking earlier, and you might want students to choose earlier. But that doesn't change the fact that students simply do not know themselves well enough at age 18 to say what they want to do at age 48 with any degree of certainty. Would it not be better to give them time to form as college students before they choose?

Thirty percent of students change majors at least once. Do you really think 70% got it right the first time?