Au Revoir, Language Requirement
In theory I get it.
Liberal arts colleges like Colby pride themselves on producing well-rounded, well-versed human beings. With that aim in mind, it makes perfect sense for students to study a foreign language; it broadens their horizons by giving them an insight into another culture,while simultaneously providing them with a whole new perspective on the structure of their native English.
Maybe there's a student out there who initially had no desire to study a foreign language at Colby, but, thanks to the language requirement, discovered a rich fountain of joy and knowledge in their first three semesters in whichever department he or she chose.
I haven't met that student yet.
By no means am I suggesting that there isn't any value in studying a foreign language. I would like to argue by using myself as a prime example, however, that language is not for everyone, and for some students, the three semesters needed to fulfill the language requirement is not the most constructive or rewarding use of their short time on the Hill.
In general, I like the distribution requirements. I think it encourages intellectual diversity and curiosity. The problem with the language requirement, however, is that students are offered very few ways to fulfill it. Other requirements offer students all sorts different options, while the only way to fulfill a language requirement, aside from placing out, is to take 125, 126 and 127. For example, if a student is not interested in an intense science experience, that student can take more pedestrian class like Chemistry for Citizens. The foreign language requirement doesn't offer that sort of flexibility, however. Where is French for Closed-Minded Americans? I want that class!
To get into Colby, or any other school of comparable academic rigor, applicants are strongly encouraged (i.e. required) to have completed at least three years of a foreign language in high school. For me, the four years of French and two years of Latin that I took before coming to Colby was more evidence than I ever could have wanted that the study of other languages was neither my passion nor my forte.
Nevertheless, I find myself again unwillingly immersed in the French language for four days every week. For Pete's sake, put a fork in me, I'm done! I think we've all figured out that I am no good at this language. I definitely am past the point where I derive any sort of pleasure from my French studies and if I can't even order a Big Mac in Quebec without the cashier letting me know, "it's ok, we can speak English," then I would confidently classify any future career paths that involve me interacting with any Frenchman (or woman) on their terms as "unwise."
My point is, this is a great school and there is a broad curriculum. If I had an extra couple hundred grand and a few more satisfactory/unsatisfactory credits lying around I'd stay a few more years. But I don't, so why can't students like me, who have already decided that they are not interested in studying a foreign language, foster their intellectual curiosity in three different classes of their choosing, instead of the three semesters of a foreign language required by the distribution requirement.
In all fairness, I will admit that I am fervently biased on this subject. Foreign languages have never come easily to anyone in my family. My older brother, who is an otherwise very intelligent young man, took Spanish 1 four times (God bless his perseverance). I myself am currently limping through my last weeks of French 127. Once this class is over (oh Lord, I hope my Professor doesn't read this until JanPlan), I will sincerely try my best not to speak French again. To me, forcing students to suffer though something they dislike so strongly to the point that they develop a closed-mindedness as stubborn as my own is not what the liberal arts collegiate experience is about.
Maybe that's not what this is about, though. Maybe my journey through French will teach me some invaluable lesson about life that is well worth the damper this class has put on my spirits and my GPA and I've just been too thickheaded to figure that lesson out yet.
Maybe I should've studied a little harder for that placement exam. C'est la vie.