The independent news organization of Duke University

What would Finland do?

As the bottomless bookbag of ACES opens its jaws and you take the courageous leap into the academic abyss, think about this: In the near future, Trinity administrators could force you to take less major-related classes in the prestigious College of Arts and Crafts. A proposal, aimed at Duke University like a cruise missile, seeks to reduce the number of courses required to complete a major from 10 to eight. Yes, in fact, in spreading hocus-pocus heartening desire to increase interdisciplinarity within the curriculum, they are killing opportunities to develop qualities vital to keeping us whole, and possibly even American.

What is interdisciplinarity anyway? According to, Inter means "among," discipline means "punishment," and arity means "the number of arguments a function takes." Sounds like they are just looking for. more arguments to. punish us more. among us. Interdisciplinarity? I don't know what that is, but I'm pretty sure I don't want more of it.

Don't think the range-hungry extremists haven't done this before. What I said about Curriculum 2000 in four-letter words as a freshman is just as valid today, although at this point I could probably say it using jargon from like four different majors. It is a logical fallacy to say that this enacted proposal of six years past has any educational marginal return or structural integrity. That sentence itself is a criticism to the policy and a tearful testament to my mental collapse.

Read my lips: Academic variety sucks.

Without a significant course load in one subject, the only thing you are going to major in is failure, and in the highly prized decimal system of our ancient forbears, "significant" means 10. Don't think a major reduction in major requirements won't cause the crumbling of society and civility. I don't want to live in a world where my local art historian hasn't taken Fascism, Art & Ideology (ArtHist386). If she can't divulge Le Corbusier as well as my local Subway sandwich artist can put together a club with lettuce, tomato, green pepper, carrots, honey mustard and a pinch of salt, I just might riot.

And how are students benefiting from the nuclear fallout of a diverse education? I think I heard about an astronaut who minored in literature. His deep comprehension of Kafka really helped him out: He got so depressed by the isolation of humanity that he shot himself. That's almost as depressing as the thought of a bunch of ignoramuses with four minors each and no jobs. As for me, I would really appreciate someone telling me how three semesters of Italian will help me as a doctor. Unless I abort babies for the Vatican, I don't see the relevance.

Doesn't anybody think of the practical concerns here, like keeping up with the Joneses? According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, taken in 2003, American now-18 year olds (our freshmen!) ranked 24th of 38 in mathematics, 19th of 38 in science, 12th of 38 in reading, and 26th of 38 in problem solving. Compare this to Finland, where eager Jaakko Hämäläinen captured either 1st or 2nd in all of those categories. Maybe if our kids focused on one skill set like reindeer herding, instead of "expanding their breadth of knowledge," our future wouldn't be blighted by an army of raving idiots.

In places like India, interdisciplinarity is about as unrecognized a word as birth control. The Indian youth go straight to professional school without passing go. And did you know, they are taking all our jobs? Think about that.

Interdisciplinarity. Well rounded. What dirty words.

Why are we trying to turn out well rounded students? There is an obesity epidemic on the rise, and I don't need statistical data to prove people are round enough. Just look around.

When the people are faced with appalling prospects, they must act. Forget diversity. An eye for an eye leaves both people blind, so keep your eyes and read your upper-level textbooks. Do your independent study. Take Macro International Finance (Econ385M-That's almost 400!). I urge you students, even if they approve a reduction in the major requirements, defend your right to overspecialize your education: Take 10 courses instead of eight. That will stick it to the man.

Ashwin Bhirud is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Friday.


Share and discuss “What would Finland do?” on social media.