Derailing the one track mind

High ground

As the end of my junior year approaches, I find myself in a peculiar yet liberating position.

Normally my major and minor alignments dictate the vast majority of classes I have to take each semester. While there tended to be ways to make space for more learning, with my own life to live, any extra work on top of the dictated course load I subjected myself to seemed excessive. But now I find that I am only required to take three more courses to graduate, and the rest are up to me. Freedom is a beautiful thing, and I find myself branching out to take classes about things I will likely never again get a chance to learn about in as much depth, enriching my career here at Case Western Reserve University.

Certain masochistic students thrive under structured schedules. I see logic behind this feeling. After all what use is an English literature class to a person who intends to write code for computers? And what is the purpose of cell biology to an accounting major? Theoretically, devoting all of your mental resources to a certain subject would maximize your ability within that field.

Perhaps a surgeon learned in Shakespeare’s works would be a more interesting person overall, but at the end of the day, if I am on the operating table all I care about is how well he can perform the prescribed task. But diversifying one’s education has been advocated for time and time again and is something students should think about during their formative years at college.

Global competition has raised questions about the nature and quality of higher education. A paper prepared by the College Outcomes Project addressed the conflicting focuses of practical and graduate education to equip students for a competitive and often specific workforce. It also focused on notions of a more liberal education that address a wider array of ideas and thought processes to better prepare students for democratic citizenship. Emphasizing success in today’s global economy and student welfare, the paper advocates for a move from traditional education to more liberalized atmospheres focusing on creating well-rounded students. You see this sentiment reflected in many instructions, such as CWRU, and the diversification of their courses.

However, there is only so much a school can offer and do; each person’s education inevitably falls on their own shoulders. I, and many of my peers, can easily fall into the one-track mindset, focusing on one discipline and blocking out all others. I have seen it happen too many times here at CWRU. This can happen for a number of reasons; perhaps the track one has picked is extremely rigid and competitive, and narrowing one’s focus simplifies matters. Maybe people take their education for granted and do not capitalize on the tremendous opportunities available.

Education goes beyond picking courses as well. It can be reading the newspaper now and then to learn about what is going on around you, picking up a good book outside of your studies or attending event extracurriculars that can build core values you can’t get in a classroom. Employers, in addition to one’s formal education, covet all of these qualities, and in an increasingly saturated labor market possessing a multitude of interests can make one stand out.

It is difficult to make time for friends, school and sweet, sweet sleep, which I miss so much. On top of everything, remaining knowledgeable about other disciplines and current events adds an extra challenge. But it breaks my heart when I hear people say they have not read a book out of their own volition since they started college. A little bit of me dies when students ignore politics, which we all will inherit as democratic citizens.

Writing for me is one track of many I have chosen to pursue, and it has helped me become a more realized and intelligent person. Simplifying education is the enemy of the inquisitive mind.

I encourage all students at all institutions, no matter how big or small, to step outside their comfort zone and continue to look for new and interesting ways to expand their minds and to travel down many tracks during their school careers. It may be arduous at times but the payoff can enrich one’s life. There is a wealth of knowledge out there waiting for you—do not overlook it.