Bulking Up the BA–Questioning LERs

As an employee of Kent State University I receive an array of wonderful benefits, including of course free education. A few of those who know me well are aware that I had to make a brief departure from Kent State University as a student a few years ago due to financial issues. I opted instead to attend a private business college. My basic goal was to obtain an associate degree in hopes that it would provide me with enough leverage to secure a position at a local college or university where I could take advantage of free schooling.

One year after I graduated, I was able to say that I had achieved that goal. Few people supported my decision to leave Kent State in favor for that private business college, but I can honestly say that without my associate degree—I would not be reaping the aforementioned benefits that I receive today.

Now having given all of this background, I would like to point out that my associate degree while transferable to Hiram College for instance, is not transferable to Kent State for various accreditation reasons. Which essentially means my undergraduate work will be started at the ground level, instead of looking at two years as a full-time student, I am easily looking at four to five—providing that with my job I can actually work myself up to attending full time.

While not being able to transfer credits is a tad a frustrating, I am more frustrated with the “LERs.” The liberal education requirements are meant to insure that the community benefits from a well rounded individual. They cover a vast range of topics and subjects—which are often of course, totally unrelated to your major/field of study. Many individuals would rather dive into the field they are passionate about, rather than waste countless dollars and hours studying and memorizing information they will likely never encounter after their final exam passes through their fingers to their instructor’s fingers.

Obviously, since BA degrees are held in higher esteem than accelerated programs and associate degrees—employers are still banking on those LERs providing them with individuals who are capable of thinking outside of the box or more than likely filling more than one gap in the work environment.

Kent State has recently decided to rework the liberal education requirements, here is a passage regarding their progress:

“After five months of intense work, the committee has created a set of guiding principles for the new “Kent Core” (LER’s in our old language). The Kent Core is premised on a learner-centered approach to education that focuses on the programmatic learning outcomes of knowledge, responsibility, insight and engagement (KRIE). In addition to fulfilling Transfer Module Requirements, the model includes a diversity requirement, capstone requirements and an applied literacy requirement.”

For the full article you may go here: http://provostupdate.kent.edu/

Now, I have a few questions, because I can honestly say I have no idea what the hell that paragraph even means. If the new Kent Core is a learner centered approach, what were the LER’s? I would think that the LEARNER would be at the heart and sole of most of the universities dynamics. I am just not sure I understand what is meant by that. Also, I fail to see how the previous principles would not have included learning outcomes of knowledge, responsibility, insight and engagement.

When I first heard that the university would be reworking the LER’s, I was hopeful that we would see a greater flexibility that would warrant the individual to take classes more aligned with their true course of study. I was hoping for some radical shift in thinking that would give people the opportunity to really build a program that had more substance. It appears however, to be another example of important people using flash in the pan and articulate words to make it appear as if they are actually working.

I mean what the hell kind of update is that? What is going to be changing? That is the bottom line. Instead we get some pretty packaging around an articulately written update that ultimately does not provide us with sufficient insight. I would have greatly appreciated some reference back to the LER’s to demonstrate the contrast between the old philosophy and the new, now I am just left feeling lost—waiting for another update.

So here I am taking two history classes to meet my LERs—as a “pre-computer information systems” major. Luckily I am already a well rounded individual and happen to love history. If I did not love learning in general, I am not sure I would have the motivation to go through a year or two learning about anything and everything in order to get to the really valuable and pertinent information. Imagine all of the others who work two jobs just to make end me, single mothers who have to figure out daycare to come to classes, and senior citizens who begin their path to enlighten and a better career…imagine their frustration.

I suppose it comes down to what the purpose is of our higher education. Is it to ready one for their career, for their work, or is it to produce a society of well rounded intellectuals. I do not begrudge those who support LERs, or who even enjoy them—I think they serve a vast majority of us very well, but I certainly do not think that those who want to focus on their work, their passions, and their specific subjects of interest should be considered less competent—just because an individual as a degree for heating and cooling and did not take Psych 101,  does not mean that he or she cannot effectively install my air conditioning unit.

eelliso1 is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.



Filed under philosophy, Politics

5 responses to “Bulking Up the BA–Questioning LERs

  1. KevinKMJr

    When I first entered into Gannon University, I also had to question having to take all of these courses that had little to nothing to do with my major. Gannon also includes their ‘Core of Discovery’ that includes philosophy, theology, liturature, and fine arts. I couldn’t help but wonder about the usefullness of these courses to a MIS person like myself.

    The key: it’s not 100% about the knowledge itself. Why would an employer prefer a graduate from a liberal arts/education institute over a student that took a school that provided a more direct and narrow course of study? Being able to study and learn of topic subjects that may or may not be your particular area of study and/or interest shows a higher competency in critical thinking.

  2. davidrsheehan

    Kevin’s right on – a “liberal education” is all about developing the ability to approach unfamiliar territory and make something of it.

    LERs, Core courses, Miami U called them Miami Plan – they’re all meant to balance your focused area (major) with a broad understanding of a variety of topics.

    On the flip side, if you prefer to just pursue a specific area of focus, there are tons of schools that aren’t liberal arts schools and don’t have such requirements. In addition, most graduate programs are intensely-focused on just an area of study. Both of these options offer a way to focus more specifically.

    I have to say that while I understand and agree with the idea of LERs or whatever you want to call them, I found considerable frustration in them myself. I won’t go into the details here, but it was certainly a thorn in my side while I was in college.

  3. I had a roommate senior year with the exact same complaint. He actually dropped out during his last year of undergrad rather than donk around with Tier II’s (Ohio University’s LER.)

    Personally, I think the goal of these classes should have been met in Primary Education, but in this country that is simply not a reality. Also, for the typical underclassman (18 or 19, just left home, scared and excited by new ideas), these classes are absolutely critical to intellectual and even spiritual growth.

    Your concerns, however, are equally poignant, but you have to remember that your situation is sort of unique. Ideally, these issues could be avoided by simply attending a University with a less intense liberal arts philosophy. Because you work at KSU, however, this doesn’t seem to be an option; but this problem is probably too situational to warrant an attack on the liberal arts as such.

    • eelliso1

      I was not actually making an attack on liberal arts. I actually mentioned that someone such as myself enjoys the classes–even though the extra time and money can be annoying.

      However, there are those who rightfully suffer greatly because of the weight employers put on “Being able to study and learn of topic subjects that may or may not be your particular area of study and/or interest shows a higher competency in critical thinking.”

      Everyone has their own ways of learning, and yes they should go to institutions that appeal to their learning styles–its just a shame they are not given as much credit as their counterparts who spend the extra time enriching their cultural awareness.

      • davidrsheehan

        “… its just a shame they are not given as much credit as their counterparts who spend the extra time enriching their cultural awareness”

        I can’t say I agree, E.

        If you want to be a .Net developer, any company who’s going to hire you isn’t going to give two shits if you took an anthropology course. Not every employer wants the cultural or intellectual “rounding” that a liberal arts education supposedly provides. Plenty are more interested in specific skillsets, educations, or personalities – none of which require a broad understanding.

        In fact, with my nearly perfect GPA with two degrees and a minor (Classics, Latin, and History respectively) from a decent liberal arts education, I am not nearly as marketable to many companies as Joe Schmore 1.5 GPA business student because I DON’T have that specific, focused training (in this case, in business).

        So, again, I can’t say I completely agree, E. If you want focus, go to a focused school/program. If you want broad understanding, liberal arts you go. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Neither dominates the other, in my view.

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