The University tends to make a big deal about diversity, and that’s great. Diversity is a fantastic thing. But it’s really easy to have too much of a good thing, and it sometimes results in a burden on students’ already rigorous academic schedules. For LSA students, this burden is most substantially felt in the form of the foreign language requirement.
As an LSA student working towards my degree, I am extremely frustrated by the school’s insistence that I achieve fourth-semester proficiency in a foreign language. When I first received my course guide last summer, I hoped the five years of Italian I took in high school would be enough to cover any sort of foreign language requirement. Was I ever wrong.
Luckily for me, my limited skill in the Italian language allowed for me to skip out on the first semester — that is, if you consider having to take three more semesters of a language you never wanted to hear again lucky. The simple fact is that I’m never going to use Italian, in any form. If I do happen to take a vacation to Italy, and if I actually remember any of the language, I can ask the tourist shop cashier, “Do you have this shirt in blue?” Yeah, Mom, all those thousands of tuition dollars you spent went toward that.
Quite frankly, this requirement is a waste. While proficiency in a foreign language might be a nice skill, it’s hardly a necessity, especially in a globalized world where it seems as if everyone speaks English already. And as an out-of-state student, I’m basically spending $5,000 for each foreign language course I’m forced to take. I’d much rather put that money towards courses I actually have a use for.
Sure, a foreign language component to a liberal arts degree has some merit. It fits right in with the quota of natural science credits that have to be met, as well as the quantitative reasoning requirement that basically means you have to take some form of math at some point to earn your degree. The idea behind these quotas is logical; a liberal arts degree should be well-rounded and include of fields.
But what’s ridiculous is that students are required to achieve fourth-semester proficiency in a foreign language. Unless you’re already talented enough to test out of some (hopefully all) of these courses, you’ll have to spend one-eighth of your 120 total credit hours learning a language that you’ll most likely never use again.
And what’s worse is how much the foreign language component seems to outweigh the other components of the degree. Why a student is required to take over twice as many credit hours in a foreign language than in either science or math is beyond me. The lack of an actual math component to an LSA degree is another issue altogether. Under the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements, LSA students don’t have to take any math courses, and I intend to take full advantage of this absurdity.
Sadly, this foreign language requirement is also driving students away from LSA. I’ve met people who have left LSA because they didn’t want to take four semesters of a foreign language, choosing to opt for majors in other schools that don’t have this requirement. Students shouldn’t be driven away from an education that might be best suited for them simply because one of the degree requirements is detestable. Liberal arts degree requirements should be challenging — but should also not be a deterrence.
This isn’t an attack on foreign languages. They definitely have a place in education. But their level of emphasis in LSA’s required curriculum is preposterous. Sadly, regardless of whether I’m right or not, I’m still going to have to make it through Italian 232. In the meantime, it’s going to wreak havoc on my GPA, give me a lot of tedious busywork and annoy the crap out of me.
Edward McPhee is an LSA freshman.