*This article is part of The Ranchor, The Anchor’s biannual satire edition.*
In the process of selecting a school to continue their education, prospective students of Hope College are bombarded with the alleged benefits of attending a liberal arts institution. While these benefits are made clear, some students are still unsure what the actual liberal arts process requires of them after their acceptance and admittance to Hope.
First-year student Michael VanDykstra intends to major in biology, and he said he felt daunted when outlining his four-year itinerary. “I didn’t think I’d have to take so many classes,” VanDykstra said. “Why can’t I just focus on the things in my major? It feels like a waste of time.”
The freshman class, however, is not alone in their distaste for general education (gen-ed) requirements. Seniors, too, wish they could avoid spending their final moments at Hope fulfilling cultural heritage credits. Rachel Gilmore, who will graduate a semester early this December with a degree in nursing, said, “I don’t get why we have to take all these extra classes. Like, I get that the liberal arts is this whole ‘well-rounded’ thing, but, like, I don’t want to be that well-rounded. You know what I mean?”
Hope faculty remain in defense of the liberal arts model, especially professors who teach classes that no student would take if it didn’t fulfill a gen-ed requirement. Ancient/Biblical Greek professor Clark de Klerk has had students in his classroom find great joy in learning about dead languages. “I think students get something out of my class, even if it’s not super relevant to their major or intended career path,” de Klerk said. “That’s the whole point of a liberal arts education— you get to expand your horizons a bit.”
Some students, too, find great value in their gen-ed classes. Junior Hannah Grace Van de Graaff is studying social work, but, according to her, some of her most valuable classes have been outside of her major. “I really learned a lot in my world religions class last spring,” Van de Graaff said. “I probably wouldn’t have taken a class like that at a non-liberal arts school.”
Other students, however, aren’t budged by this claim. “I just don’t get why there are so many gen-ed requirements,” VanDykstra said. “ And soon we’re switching to a three-credit-hour system? So I’m going to have to take even more classes? That just doesn’t seem fair.”
Gilmore agreed. “I have friends at MSU who basically only take classes in their major,” she said. “That sounds awesome. Like, I get that my friends aren’t learning about many things outside of their major and probably haven’t read a book since high school English, but that sounds so much better than having to read, like, so many books on so many different subjects. Maybe I should have just gone to a state school.”
“Maybe she should have just gone to a state school,” de Klerk said. “I mean, if you don’t believe in the education you’re getting at Hope, you’re wasting your money and time. Or your parents’ money. I get that not every gen-ed is going to be a life-changing experience, but that’s different from disliking the entire system. If you don’t like the liberal arts approach, don’t go to a liberal arts school.”
Hope admission reps are working on explaining the liberal arts better to high school students. John Kagey, who mostly recruits in the midwest, said, “It’s hard to explain the liberal arts to high school students and their families because they, frankly, just could not care less. So many parents hear the word ‘Christian’ and go, ‘Ok, let’s send our kid there,’ without thinking about the actual requirements of a liberal arts education.”
While the pros and cons of the liberal arts are a hotly debated topic among students enrolled in a first-year seminar, it seems that this discussion may be a day late and a dollar short. Until prospective students can understand what something means before they experience it, Hope will undoubtedly continue to have students who are baffled by the very thing they signed up for and pay tens of thousands of dollars per year for.