Numerous complaints have been voiced about Pomona College’s Breadth of Study requirements, which mandate that students complete at least one course in five separate areas of study in order to graduate.
Many criticize the Breadth of Study requirements as failing to properly promote a true liberal arts education. They harp on the lack of rigorous diversity required in Pomona’s base curriculum.
I, however, vehemently believe that Pomona’s current Breadth of Study requirements offer students the ability to act in their best self-interest. Pomona’s Breadth of Study requirements fulfill the basic liberal arts education criteria while also allowing students the freedom to dictate their own class schedule.
Providing a liberal arts education to all of its students is Pomona’s overarching goal, but this shouldn’t necessarily dictate which classes Pomona students take. Students will get the most out of classes they are legitimately interested in. Forcing classes upon a student is not the correct way to foster an appreciation for a liberal arts education. If students are genuinely interested in having a liberal arts education, they will pursue it.
In fact, pushing for more aggressive breadth requirements could have the opposite effect. Students might be less likely to take classes purely for edifying purposes and would stick to taking classes for their major and Breadth of Study requirements.
Students would also have fewer options for double majoring or fulfilling the requirements of various graduate school programs. For the large portion of Pomona students wishing to fulfill pre-med requirements, majoring in something other than a hard science would no longer be a viable option.
Increasing the Pomona Breadth of Study requirements would lead to more pressure for Pomona students to declare their majors earlier. In addition, switching majors would be much more difficult for non-first-years. While a noble idea, the expansion of our distribution requirements could have an intellectually limiting effect, locking students into their majors earlier and restricting their ability to study abroad.
If Pomona wants to truly give its students a liberal arts education, forcing larger Breadth of Study requirements down students’ throats is not the proper approach. Forcing more requirements upon students is demeaning. Students should be motivated to take an eclectic set of courses of their own accord. Pomona’s Breadth of Study is currently an ideal compromise between promoting a liberal arts agenda and allowing students to choose their own set of classes. Let’s leave it that way.