I’ve often asked why I’ve had to take so many general education classes earning my bachelor’s degree in computer science, especially those that have been entirely unrelated to my major and have taught skills seldom useful in a professional setting. You know the classes I’m talking about — History of Astronomy, Man’s Food, Age of the Dinosaurs and so on. But whenever I gripe about being forced to take these classes if I want to graduate, people echo some variation of the same response: “College is about expanding your horizons” or “College is about making you more well-rounded.” At this point, I’m sick of hearing it.
If college was genuinely about expanding horizons instead of gaining clout to compete in the job market, none of us would be enrolled at UF because it wouldn’t be worth the investment of both time and money. It’s difficult to justify thousands of dollars of debt, other out-of-pocket expenses, dozens of stress-induced cram sessions and four or five of the most dynamic years of your life as a reasonable price for the highly ambiguous goal of becoming more “well-rounded”.
None of this is to say I don’t enjoy learning about other subjects. I’m deeply interested in psychology, pharmacology and chemistry, but I study them on my own time at my own pace. I don’t have to fork over thousands of dollars to a university, and my ability to graduate and ultimately find a job isn’t tied to my knowledge on how serotonin is biosynthesized or what the early symptoms of schizophrenia look like.
I know I’m not alone in my assessment of how useless most of these classes are. I once had a physics professor ask the class how many of us were computer science students on the first day of class to which about half of us raised our hands. “You’re never going to use this again, but let’s just get through this,” he said. I remember that more vividly than any of the concepts he taught us that semester.
While this frustrates me, I can tolerate most of it. Astronomy isn’t a complete waste of time, and balancing chemical equations never killed anyone. What I absolutely cannot stand is the foreign language requirement in UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The idea that I’m going to become proficient in Spanish after a mere two semesters or that I’ll retain anything useful after the final exam is utterly absurd. Classes have been in session for a month and I can barely put together a handful of coherent sentences. Worse yet, as I’m constantly reminded by my Honduran roommate, the Spanish being taught is highly formal and a long way from what most people speak on a daily basis. Even if I did learn and remember a decent bit of Spanish, what am I going to do with it? Code in the Spanish edition of the Java programming language? I’m not even sure they make that.
I can’t say I’m surprised. Universities are government-run businesses, and they have all the profit incentive in the world to hold your degree hostage while demanding a ransom of ludicrous courses. I’m just disappointed.
Cameron White is a UF computer science senior.