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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 13, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Guest Commentary: Skill-based education cannot substitute for the classics

As colleges look to cut costs and create programs that promise prospective students job skills that will help them get ahead in the field after graduation, curricula that focus on a traditional college education are falling to the wayside.

The study and analysis of literature, history, language and culture are necessary to being both a well-rounded student and developing skills for any career or industry. College students should be required to take courses in classic subjects rather than focusing solely on building technical skills for the workplace.

Junior Zachary Woelfel is the president of IC Book Club and an advocate for colleges to require students to take courses in classic subjects. Shawn Steiner/The ithacan
Junior Zachary Woelfel is the president of IC Book Club and an advocate for colleges to require students to take courses in classic subjects. Shawn Steiner/The ithacan

The core of any literature class is in-depth analysis. By reading the material, the students analyze passages to determine the author’s point of view, arguments and beliefs. Readers have the opportunity to develop and defend their personal points of view.  No matter your chosen field, any job will require that you take a stance on a certain topic, and you will have to give reasons why your viewpoint is correct.

The reasoning skills necessary to formulate a position are not the core of many courses focusing on technical career skills. This is not something that can be faked in today’s fast-paced world. By having daily practice in preparing and defending their point of view in classes focusing on the classics, students will be prepared for the moment in which they are called on to explain their viewpoint. This is a skill students should be practicing every day, and the way the curriculum is currently structured allows for students to miss them entirely.

We live in a global society where information crosses borders instantaneously. To succeed in any sort of international business, an understanding of our world is necessary. Without a core education in the classics, where are students gaining this perspective? The first step in having students become global citizens is to provide the perspective of cultures and traditions other than their own. Classes in literature and other classical topics allow students to gain awareness of world cultures without leaving campus.
Classical education classes provide a variety of intangible skills that are essential to success in today’s workplace. Since this is not a skill that can be easily measured, classes in these topics are withering away. As colleges look to cut costs, classics programs are often the first things to disappear. In addition to analytical thinking, courses in classical topics foster an appreciation for the humanities in students, which in turn makes them more well-rounded individuals. The study of classic topics ensures students have qualities other competitors in the field may not have.

Curricula should be structured in a way that provides students with a foundation for education. Once this foundation has been established, professional skills can be layered on top, creating students who know the ins and outs of their industry, aswell as how to create and defend their point of view.

Zachary Woelfel is a a junior integrated marketing communications major. Email him at zwoelfe1@ithaca.edu.