Moment of Clarity: Minimize Mediocrity
At the risk of offending the great academicians that compose the Howard University faculty, I have to raise serious questions about our undergraduate curriculum. Simply put, what if our formal education, i.e. classes, do not prepare us for “real world careers” or graduate school, much less the Leadership for America and the Global Community? Not a far stretch from the truth, yet the blame is not merely on the professors or the curriculum. Contrarily, I place the burden of achievement on the students.
Students in the School of Business often complain that the focus of their school is to prepare them to conform to the standards of someone else’s company in lieu of changing those standards or building a new company. The School of Communications is known for relatively easy majors that lack requirement of intellect to excel in them. The College of Arts and Sciences is labeled a place for academic drifters, with liberal arts majors that fall short of preparing or stimulating students for anything in particular. The School of Education has until recently been plagued with facilities issues and apathetic administrative leadership. Engineering, Architecture, Nursing, and Health Sciences students often feel that they are so limited by their rigorous concentrations that they miss the holistic student experience and development.
The validity of those perceptions is irrelevant, however, because I submit that Howard’s undergraduate experience is tainted with the stench of mediocrity emanating from the students. It is true, many of our classes do not challenge us, and we tend to learn significantly more outside of class than inside it. Yet despite that oft unspoken grievance, we fail to address it. We do not challenge our professors. We do not seek to learn and have our progress evaluated in class. We do not strive for that which we claim to strive for: leadership for America and the Global Community.
If a professor regularly shows up late or not at all, we recommend that professor. If a professor only requires that students purchase books, show up in class, or complete menial assignments, we flock to their class. If a professor has a tough reputation, and actually holds students to acceptable standards of collegiate intellect, we whine about how unreasonable they are. God forbid a professor fail to host a review session for an upcoming test that doesn’t specifically spell out the exact questions and answers.
The result: after four years and thousands in student loans, we leave Howard essentially the same or worse-off intellectually than we came. No one will review for the GRE or LSAT and tell you exactly what to memorize. No company will send you a list of interview questions and suggested answers; your employer (or investors in your company) will expect you to be broadly knowledgeable. We have to do better, otherwise the legacy of our University and the value of our degrees will be strangled by the same weeds of mediocrity that have clearly sprouted throughout the undergraduate experience.