Higher education mirrors fast food

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Illustration by Hayden Senter

Ever feel like you just sat down at the educational equivalent to Burger King or Taco Bell? It tastes great, but eat four years of it and you could end up as the next Goodyear blimp.

That’s what our public universities are now like — an unhealthy choice for the consumer.

That’s us — the students.

Even our beloved Chico State has bought into this model with initiatives like “Aim 4 Four” and “Take 2” for first-year and transfer students, respectively.

This is based on the consumer having a prefabricated Major Academic Plan “order” ready when walking through the door.

Where did the simple joy of learning wander off to? The exploration of possibilities and ideas that are different and unexpected?

My collegiate career has winded its way from music education, back in 1998, to health education when I returned to pursue college again. I changed my declared major to sociology just before transferring to Chico State.

I don’t regret that decision.

What I discovered, thanks to my sociology professors, is that I’ve gained a different perspective on my life and society. More than that, sociology honed my activist spirit and gave me a vocabulary to describe the ideas in my head and my heart. What more could you ask for from university classes?

How about academic freedom for students?

I was taking my major’s writing-intensive capstone and decided to take English 220I, “Introduction to Creative Writing.”

For the first few weeks, I wasn’t sure if I had completely taken leave of my senses or if an apparition with a twisted sense of humor like mine had slipped something into my drink the day I registered for classes.

Then I fell in love again with creative writing.

Fast forward two semesters and here I am, writing this column and preparing pieces for “Advanced Fiction/Nonfiction” after earning an A in “Creative Nonfiction.”

In many ways, I regret not having taken a creative writing class earlier. I might have had the time to take on the creative writing minor or even take it on as a major and take sociology as a minor.

Who says that a mechatronic engineering major can’t fall in love with writing poetry? Or an art history major with statistics? Unfortunately, our institutions do.

I’m not suggesting any Odes to Standard Deviations, a monologue from the personification of Newton’s Second Law of Motion, or “The day in the life of your liver.”

Do many new students come to Chico State with an informed desire to pursue a certain major? How are we supposed to know what we really wish to pursue as a professional career if we don’t get the chance to experience the fullness of the academic spectrum?

I can only close with: “Thank you for choosing Chico State. Please have your order and method of payment ready at the window or when ordering online.”

Joseph Rogers can be reached at [email protected] or @josephlrogers1 on Twitter.