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Memories of the 28th Century

In Search of Ignorance

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This is my reply to a column in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian that I read while having lunch near the University of Massachusetts.

Mr Pappas, I found your column "Get rid of gen-ed courses that cost time and money" interesting in several ways, and I might be able to assist you in a small way. You are completely right that Gen-Ed requirements don't lead toward your faster completion of a degree program in business, but they were never intended to save money or speed your completion of Business major.

The gen-ed requirements are intended to make up for some of the secondary education that you never received. Until fairly recently high school graduates were expected, actually required, to have a fair understanding on U.S. and World History, competency in math through Algebra and Geometry, mastery of a modern language, and a good understanding of Latin, etc. Within the last few decades the requirements for high school graduation have slide into the sewer (the Federal government got involved). These days there are people graduating high school and getting into college who never had even one year of Latin, and who don't even have an elementary understanding of Algebra, and forget about the rest.

A large part of a university education now is remedial, filling in the gaps that should have been filled in earlier times. You shouldn't blame the university for having those course requirements; local and state education departments should be blamed, because they let the requirements fall so far.

In addition to the low standards of secondary education, there is the matter of UMass Amherst being a university, rather than a business school. It is expected that anyone who graduates will have some comprehension of many academic disciplines. If you just want business courses, then you might be better off dropping out and getting a job as assistant manager at a fast food place, and you could take some business courses in your spare time. That way you could earn money and get practical experience in addition to classroom time.

But your column also assisted me in finding a subject for a blog post. This one will be "In Search of Ignorance". You aren't the only one who seems to be opposed to education, knowledge, and so forth. A while ago I ran into an article, blog post really, in which the writer wants to encourage scientific literacy. Unfortunately, the writer doesn't know his science and didn't bother to check the facts.

Last year, The Economist had a major article about journal published scientific experiments that were irreproducible. Many of the scientists spent years creating experimental data that could not be reproduced; that was rather a waste of time, but much of the so-called science that people in the climate change business are producing is equally reproducible, and businesses and governments are considering spending large sums of money based on those fantasies. But you would never have a chance to figure that out, if you took only the courses you want to, because you don't have an adequate grounding in the hard sciences. I just looked at the present Gen-Ed requirements, and found that they have almost been eliminated, so you shouldn't complain, but there is still a requirement believe that among the Gen-Ed requirements is one for three science courses, so you should have something in common with scientists who fudge the results of their experiments.

There also is a requirement for a course in Analytical Reasoning, so that should help you to determine that the evidence that someone produced as part of a presentation was actually fantasy, just pseudo-facts designed to confuse people who don't know that field well.

But maybe you are right and the Gen-Ed requirements should be eliminated. You would be able to finish your major requirements in two years, and then you could be another almost literate specialist who didn't even understand how his specialty fit in with the rest of the world. That would create positions for people with good, general educations to go in and straighten out the messes that you made.

If you had any sense, then you would be trying to increase the Gen-Ed requirements to ensure that there would be adequately educated people in the future. You might also try to improve primary and secondary education. Not long ago high school graduates were better educated than university graduates are now, and people completed the eighth grade with an education that was superior to what most high school graduates have now. That wasn't because children were any smarter. They were not given any alternative; they were required to take the courses, or they could drop out and get unskilled factory jobs.

Updated 09-17-2015 at 04:38 PM by PeterL