Goucher College president Jose Bowen comments on why we should consider moving away from the traditional major structure and allow students to pick a focus based on what interests them, and what might prepare them for jobs of the future.
Any college major is like a single tool. And most tools are really only useful when the job at hand is the one for which it has been designed. Biology might be a hammer, and anthropology a screwdriver. But which tool will you need in ten years? If the jobs of the future are uncertain, then what you really need is a largertoolbox. Colleges usually require a series of introductory courses. It is important for students to be exposed to every tool in the toolbox, but do you really need an entire semester of Introduction to the Hammer before you are ready to build something? Might we instead let students pick problems that interest them? This is motivating, and we all learn more when we care about the topic. It is also more of a “real world” job skills approach. We don’t know what the problem will be after you graduate, but we suspect you will need both your hammer and your screwdriver. College students are often far too focused on trying to pick the right major. But rather than specializing in a specific tool, or picking your favorite way of looking at the world, wouldn’t it be better to figure out what types of problems really matter the most to you? If you are interested in poverty, the environment, immigration or disease, you will still need to understand something about politics, culture, history, music, science, marketing, anthropology, psychology and language. They all have important insights to offer and they are all tools that can help you build your solution.