Taking a Step Outside Your Skillset

This course has continuously shown me the importance of class discussions and of a liberal arts college. For instance, today in class we discussed with our groups our reflective essay ideas. Through this, I learned that one of my group members was also a science major. We talked about how in order to apply for medical school, you need to complete a full year of English. Another group member asked us if it was also a requirement for our majors. When we informed that group member that it wasn’t, they asked us whether or not we thought a full year of English should be a requirement for science majors. This wasn’t something I have considered prior. Since I entered SUNY Geneseo through a pre-med track, I was always knew that a year of English was a requirement, but their question as to what I believed to be a part of my own major’s requirement caused me to wonder, what do I think should be a part of it?

Together, my group discussed further about courses such as humanities, sociology, and English that a majority of students at SUNY Geneseo are required to take. We talked about how they have all aided in our personal growth as students. However, if I had not taken these courses, I believe my educational experience and growth would be different. These classes exposed me to the humanities and parts of our history that none of my core classes for science would have done. Therefore, I feel that a year of English would be beneficial for all majors, including science majors, regardless if they plan to enter medical school or not. There is a wide variety of English courses offered at Geneseo, and they could all further a student’s educational growth. An article by Valerie Strauss references George Anders book, You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education, and highlights the essential claims that he makes about the benefits of taking classes outside of one’s major or skillset. Strauss quotes Anders, “The more we automate the routine stuff…the more we get tangled up in the vastness and blind spots of big data, the more essential it is to bring human judgment into the junctions of our digital lives” (Anders, 2017). This shows that classes outside our core requirements are what shape our humanity and help us step back from all the science and data. Personally, the numbers I see all day in STEM classes can be consuming, but when I step back and learn in courses such as English or humanities, I am exposed to concepts of culture and humanity. Our group discussion then caused me to consider the classes that I am currently taking or have completed in the humanities/literature field and how they shaped my learning.

I have completed almost all of my general education requirements for my undergraduate degree, with each of them showing me a new aspect of culture or humanity. However, the only English portion of my general education classes was a semester of an introductory freshman writing course. That introductory course class was helpful, but it simply was not enough. There was a lack of exposure to the humanities through literature. Thus, I believe a full year of an English course would be beneficial to all majors. As Anders said, we often get caught up in numbers and the digital aspect of our world and that we can lose our touch with humanity. Therefore, with a year of English as a requirement in the general education portion of our degrees, it would be beneficial to our growth as students. Strauss also mentions in her article, “Within the humanities, one can learn another language, which can open the window into a new culture, a new worldview” (Strauss, 2017). Although English courses may not be labeled as humanities, it’s a close parallel. According to Stanford University, humanities can be defined as, “…the study of how people process and document the human experience” (Stanford University). English courses highlight human experience through literature, and within in these classes, it’s analyzed. Overall, a full year of English could provide students with even more exposure to the humanities. 

This course has not only opened my eyes to so many new aspects of literature, but it has also shown me just how important collaboration and my experience at a liberal arts college is. I am thankful for discussions like the one I have mentioned, and I hope to encounter more like them in my further studies. The idea of English being a two-semester requirement versus just one appears to be a beneficial proposal. As stated before, this could increase students’ exposure to the humanities, as I have experienced within my own English classes. Even in our syllabus for this class by Dr. McCoy, the course epigraph is by Dione Brand and it states, “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.” A part of this job of noticing is studying humanity, and English courses expose us to this. 

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