Skidmore’s long-standing general education requirements are finally up for review by the College. What exactly the changes to the core curriculum will look like is so far unclear. It’s a complicated topic, with significant implications, and the Editorial Board had trouble coming to a consensus on what Skidmore’s core curriculum should look like. We concluded that the future of Skidmore’s General Education requirements ultimately comes down to how Skidmore wants to treat its students.
On the one hand, Skidmore is a liberal arts institution. Liberal, most literally implying individual freedoms, could be interpreted as meaning a school with no requirements at all. If Skidmore is a liberal institution, designated to prepare its students for life after college, should we not be treated as adults while we are here?
One could argue that students should have a choice in what kind of requirements they must take, and that not all nine must be fulfilled before graduation. One could also argue that students need no babysitting at all, and that requirements should be excluded from the curriculum altogether. One of Skidmore’s boasting points is that it asks its students to step outside of their comfort zones, through its general requirements. But what about when those requirements get in the way of a student’s passions, or their major track? And what about when we take into account the school’s staggering tuition, and acknowledge that students are oftentimes paying for courses that may serve them no use whatsoever, that they do not want to be taking? Skidmore does offer many summer courses, which helps students complete some extra requirements, but for a hefty additional expense. One 4-credit course at Skidmore over the summer amounts to $4095 including housing. Many students pursuing an Art major often have to stay at Skidmore during the summer, in order to complete their major requirements, because much of their time during Fall and Spring semesters was spent completing General Education requirements.
So, perhaps the school should grant us some more choice and leniency as far as which requirements must be fulfilled in order to graduate. If the school wants us to act like adults, discover our passions and pursue them, and lead a successful life after graduation, then perhaps they should treat us more like adults?
However, there is, of course, an opposing argument. We all entered Skidmore fully aware that the school had General Education requirements that every student must fulfill. Skidmore holds its students to a standard that entails being a well-rounded individual. In the College’s Mission Statement, it states “Skidmore faculty and staff create a challenging yet supportive environment that cultivates students’ intellectual and personal excellence, encouraging them to expand their expectations of themselves while they enrich their academic understanding.” Thus, Skidmore’s Gen Ed requirements align with their Mission Statement outlining their expectations of us as students. They seek to broaden our horizons while educating us.
An employer who hires a Skidmore graduate most likely expects that they will be hiring an individual who has a basic understanding of all core disciplines. If said graduate had not, in fact, fulfilled all core requirements, the employer will potentially have hired an underqualified employee, unbeknownst to them. Furthermore, many students enter Skidmore unsure of what they want to major in. After dabbling in subjects, and fulfilling general education requirements, it is certainly easier for a student to narrow down what they do and do not enjoy. This is what a liberal arts education is all about--allowing its students to explore multiple disciplines before they hone in on just one subject. Without a core curriculum, some students may flounder, and other students will graduate with from study to narrow to be considered liberal arts.
Should Skidmore bestow its students more or less academic freedom? This is ultimately a question of values. Do we, the students, value our independence or our institution’s structure and standards more? Do we prefer a well-rounded education, or a boundary-free experience?