The Boston Globe reported Tuesday that faculty are revising the titles of their courses to draw more students. The leading example was a German course at Boston College previously known as “German Literature of the High Middle Ages.” The professor changed the title to “Knights, Castles, and Dragons” and tripled the number of students who signed up.
The story is amusing and illustrates the universal tendency to respond to marketing. But it also reminds us that students these days are pretty much in charge of their “education.” Letting freshmen choose all their general-education courses is parallel to letting four-year-olds decide if they want candy or green beans. The result is college graduates who are woefully under-nourished in educational terms.
The total abandonment of the idea that faculty (and administration) might know more than students about what they should study is the result of a long evolution. For more about this history, read Russell Nieli’s essay on the transformation of higher education in America, “From Christian Gentleman to Bewildered Seeker.”