One of the most enjoyable aspects of my college career thus far has been interacting with non-traditional college students. Therefore, I think the ideal college curriculum would have paths and classes specifically tailored for such students, so that those who do not necessarily consider themselves academically minded or would not necessarily want to or need to seek a degree, would still attend college. Like many of my colleagues, I see a lot of value in the liberal arts curriculum for the traditional college student. Even if someone enters college thinking they know what their career aspirations or simply their major is going to be, one of the fundamental aspects of college, in my opinion, is that it allows students to experiment, and to change their minds. However, the traditional liberal arts curriculum needs modification for the non-traditional student to feel it is worthwhile to attend college and seek a degree. Indeed, some of these modifications could even apply to traditional college students seeking a liberal arts degree. I see this modification as a series of courses based around the real-world applications of typical, entry-level, college courses. Some such course ideas are listed below. Logistically, I would envision one to two of these classes replacing one subject area requirement for those seeking a traditional liberal arts education. For those seeking specific vocational or career training/education, these series of courses would act as their General Education Requirements/liberal arts core. However, these students would have the option of taking traditional liberal arts core classes if they so wished.

Math and Statistics & the Real World: Level 1

Math and Statistics in the Real World: Level 1 will give students a refresher course in math concepts up to and through pre-calculus (in the typical sequence of math courses). In addition, students will be taught how to apply math concepts to basic tasks that are necessary for financial success: balancing a checkbook, creating a budget, investing, saving etc. Students will also be taught rudimentary statistical analysis that allows them to understand the basic statistics presented in news reports and articles, as well as articles from other disciplines (i.e. social science).

Science & the Real World: Biology

Science & the Real World: Biology will give students a overview course in biology at a basic college level. Throughout the course, news about scientific breakthroughs, discoveries, and debates will be discussed from a “hard” science point of view, and high profile diseases (such as Alzheimer, Diabetes, and Autism) and the discussion surrounding them will be discussed. In addition, this class will take a look at the “hard” science behind public health.

(There would of course be more courses in the “Real World” curriculum. For example, History & the Real World might take current events and look at the historical events that led to the current situation and are relevant to understanding the current situation, as well as look at historical analogies that can help students understand major themes in history.)

Two things that would not be included in the “Real World” curriculum are foreign language and technology/computer science. Foreign language courses, in the form they exist today, would still be a requirement for all students. I believe fluency in a second language is extremely important, and if I had my way, would be taught in all schools from a very young age. Technology/computer science currently is not a requirement, even in many great liberal arts curriculum. However, I believe this is a critical flaw in education today. If there is one thing that can be taken from many of the literature we have been reading about technology and education (both fiction and nonfiction), it is that technological literacy is becoming absolutely necessary to be a successful, involved member of society. Perhaps one such technological literacy class that would be offered would fit into the “Real World” curriculum (i.e. “Technology & the Real World”). However, I would encourage most students to fulfill a computer science requirement, because, in most fields/careers it is people with this higher level of technological literacy who will be most successful (or, at the very least, this level of technological literacy will facilitate the greatest level of success).

Solely student’s interests would determine the rest of a student’s courses. Preferably, all students would have highly personalized advising so that everyone could create their own curriculum (CUNY BA style) with a mix of classes in whatever subjects they so desired (though of course, a cohesive vision would be needed to tie these classes together). Non-traditional students especially would be able to use “real world” experiential learning such as internships, apprentices, and fellowships as part of their curriculum, though of course such an option would be available to all students. Students who did this would have to write a proposal for such work to count for credit, and would have to submit an evaluation by their supervisor/boss, as well as a “final paper” or “final project” of some sort, which their advisor would then use to determine their “grade.” Students would be allowed to receive financial compensation for this work, contrary to the way most college curriculum currently works with such programs (it’s either credit or money).

In terms of timeline, it would vary from student to student. A minimum of two years would be required (this would be for students requiring minimal academic training and coursework), with a maximum time of eight years to obtain your degree (for those who want to do “four years” of full time school, but can only take classes part-time). In the end, the degree would reflect what kind of path you’d taken, but it will still be a degree – an essential requirement in today’s middle-class job market, almost regardless of occupation.