Saturday, July 22, 2023


........................or, why I was a History major:

     "It's just first year engineering," she said.  "Everybody cries."

     I was a little concerned, and a little curious, so I poked around a bit and talked to a grad student I knew in mechanical engineering.  He told me that only one in three students who started as an engineering major would finish with the degree, and that in fact early courses in the major were designed to be "weed out" classes, meant specifically to compel students to drop the major and choose another.  Why?  Because the rigor of the engineering programs was so high that a large percentage of students were guaranteed to drop out eventually, and it was far better for them to do so early in their college careers before they had accumulated a lot of credits.  What had seemed like cruelty to me was in fact an act of mercy, an artifact of a pragmatic and necessary acknowledgement that not all students possess the underlying ability necessary to flourish in some fields.  In time I would learn that many college classes, such as calculus and organic chemistry functioned in much the same way.  And I grew to think that rather than representing a failure of educators to do their jobs, these classes that screened out students performed a necessary if unfortunate function for institutions dedicated to training young people for their futures.

-Fredrik deBoer,  The Cult of Smart

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