To the Daily:
Everyone at this University has run up against distribution requirements at some time or another, and the experience is often frustrating. However, Emily Orley’s viewpoint claiming that they should be abandoned ignores some of their important benefits (Freedom from distribution, 01/07/2010).
Orley states that during undergraduate studies, it’s acceptable to have no idea what you want to do. I agree completely. Distribution requirements are one way to ensure that undergraduate students are exposed to a variety of fields and ideas they might enjoy, with the added benefit of producing more well-rounded students regardless of their eventual career paths. Yes, an English major might not want to take an introductory science class, just like a math major might resent having to take English 125. However, both writing skills and scientific literacy are important parts of being an educated citizen and the distribution requirements just might make that math major realize that he really wants to do social work instead. It’s not that “because a person is better in calculus than another he or she is smarter” but that an educated person should know a little bit about race and ethnicity or the humanities as well as his or her own pet subject.
I also believe that attendance sheets and lecture quality, more than distribution requirements, determine whether students skip a class. Some of the best classes I’ve taken have fulfilled distribution requirements, and I’ve seen students skip weeks in their own electives.
The idea that these requirements can prevent someone from graduating is a little far-fetched. Students have finished double majors in four years (or three, or five) for decades now, with their distributions all in a row and no problems. If someone can’t make it out because of a distribution requirement, it’s due to poor planning on his or her part.
The viewpoint claimed that because we are paying tuition, we should be able to choose which classes to take. That’s fine — but we pay for classes, not a degree. The reason the University is so expensive is because of its diploma’s high standards, one of which is breadth. The freedom to ignore all areas of study but your own is the freedom to become insular and arrogant, and the distribution requirements are the University’s way of preventing that.