By Allegra Maldonado
“Jack of all trades, master of none,” goes the well-known adage. Accordingly, the administration seemed unfazed in the Oct. 30 Collegian article “Kenyon Fails Gen Ed Report,” detailing Kenyon’s failure to meet the general education requirements stated by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
Though breadth of knowledge is undoubtedly important, the fact remains that a person who tries to do everything usually ends up doing nothing very well. There are exceptions, of course, like the Renaissance man who excels in science, art and poetry. The Leonardo da Vincis, the Michelangelos, the Galileo Galileis and the Benjamin Franklins. But in reality, very few of us are these people. I don’t say this to undermine our own achievements, but to highlight the fact that maybe “failing” as well-rounded students is a blessing in disguise.
It allows us to follow the path about which we are genuinely passionate and allows us to exhaust the knowledge within that particular subject. Considering we are supposed to become experts in the fields we major in, it may be optimal to ignore, at least to a certain extent, those fields that do not pertain to our majors.
Finding a major is not exactly easy. Kenyon offers 24 majors with various concentrations within each one. Narrowing down your interests can be difficult. The Kenyon student typically declares her major at 19 years of age — 20 if we push it — and the impulsiveness that characterizes many young-adult decisions may extend to the approach we take when choosing our areas of study. If it’s not impulsiveness, it’s apathy. Many college students simply fall into their majors. This doesn’t mean that we are not interested in what we study or that we are not talented in what we study, but that many of us slide into our majors rather than actively pursue them. We fill out forms and track down professors for signatures. Some of us even attend departmental open houses. Yet we are constantly changing our minds and second-guessing our declarations.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that up until college we’ve been told exactly what classes to take. These classes were not often intended to spark our interests in specific research questions or lead us to ponder life’s most important questions. For the most part, they were meant to look good on college applications and serve as bragging rights for our overly proud parents at the next cocktail party or school fundraising event.
I think there is a misconception among college students that those who have declared their majors are fountains of knowledge on that subject that never run dry. This is not the case. No one has it quite figured out just yet and the beauty of college is that we don’t have to. There is time for that in the future — in graduate school or in our professional careers.
One afternoon while my friend and I were discussing our sociology courses, she described the subject as “the definition of applicable.” Only at Kenyon, I thought. At other, non-liberal arts institutions, the humanities and social sciences might be too often written off by students as the very opposite — inapplicable, irrelevant, unsuited to preparing students for today’s competitive job market. If the objective of college is to “find ourselves,” we must put a major’s perceived practicality on the back-burner and instead major in what we, as individuals, find practicable. This is a difficult task, some might even say an insurmountable one. Kenyon students, I wish you the best of luck.
Allegra Maldonado ’17 is an international studies major from Indianapolis. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.