This is the season when my thoughts turn to education. So I decided to write about my college courses and assess their importance in my life’s journey.
I enrolled in a small liberal arts Catholic university in the 1960. I was not a Catholic but I chose the school because it offered me a four years scholarship which rendered me an almost free education.
The courses I took during my college career in semester hours were: speech (2), logic (2), The Bible (2), history (6), English/literature (6), economics (3), political science (3), foreign languages (6), sociology (3), chemistry (10), botany (4), physics (21), mathematics (42), and Catholic theology and philosophy (22). I played in the concert band during my first two college years and it enriched my life by introducing me to opera that has become a continuous enjoyment.
My college course selections were not my choosing. They were hardwired by the university into the science and mathematics majors’ curriculum. Students in the other colleges were freed of botany and the heavy doses of mathematics, physics, and chemistry; but they took special courses introducing them to ideas from these foundation disciplines. Non-major courses, that were common to everyone studies, were theology, philosophy, logic, speech, history, literature, political science, economics, sociology and history.
For many embarking on the college journey, selecting non-required courses is a matter of choosing what is left, after eliminating the yuk courses. I call the yuk courses those that are not in one’s major but appear in the following list: foreign languages, logic, philosophy, theology, mathematics, physics, political science, etc. At college age, that would have been my decision rule, but thanks heavens for the wisdom of this university to mandate the choices I had. Those yuk courses have proven over and over again to be my most valued college treasures.
Of course the courses of my major were valuable. In fact, they kindled a desire to know more about our wonderfully made bodies and the world we inhabit. But it was the yuk courses that prepared me to live with myself and others.
For instance the music and the literature courses, that I would not have selected, bring unquantifiable enjoyment to my life, for they serenade my inner being to tranquility or have aroused me to action.
The richness of Bible literatures and their symbols have unfolded writing styles to often uncover the simplest and most complicated ideas of life. While the Old Testament stories replayed in modern times have laid bear the recurrent failures and joys of life.
How can I forget the importance of glimpses into political theories and various philosophies that wave warning signs before my mind’s eyes that keep me from the temptation to demonize others, while providing a scaffolding upon which I choose my personal behavior, my ethics, my spirituality, and how I view others holding contrary views.
When I least suspect, the grammatical tidbits from foreign language courses enriched my personal communication skills, and their accompanying cultural lessons have explained to me seemingly strange habits and behaviors of native speakers.
And to the principles of logic I am the richer, for they protect me from faulty reasoning, while providing sound structure upon which to choose decision rules to navigate life. Of course I am not perfect. But the yuk courses have a way of evolving me to reevaluate and adjust my bad decisions to approximate reality.
So to all you new college students, choose well the courses you take. They are the only resources you will have to deliver you to a tranquil place in your profession, in your relationships with others and to live with yourself. Unfortunately youth often obscure the meaningful things in life. So consult the successful before taking the wide road to an easy four years. Yuk courses in your college career may hold the key to your personal successes.