OP-Ed: A product of a renaissance education

Ben Mehic, Managing News Editor


Three years ago, I walked into Professor Christopher Riddle’s ethics class during my freshman year of college expecting utter dreadfulness for the next several months. I was never particularly interested in philosophy and certainly didn’t enjoy voicing my opinions about topics such as abortion.

When the class was over, Professor Riddle had taught me more about life’s intricacies more than any other professor (and teacher) I’ve ever had. His lectures detailed the complex decisions students would have to make – ones that might seem distant, but could approach any time. Professor Riddle stressed the importance of recognizing the finite nature of life – how death, as morbid as it sounds, can literally be right around the corner. Professor Riddle noted the importance of identifying the decisions that occur after death and how it could impact the lives of loved ones.

After multiple lectures, Professor Riddle convinced me that organ donation – something I never thought about before enrolling in his class – was the right decision (at least for me, given my personal beliefs) after death.

I never would’ve known about the possibility of saving someone with my organs after death if I hadn’t taken Professor Riddle’s class. More importantly, I never would’ve known about that possibility had Utica College not made it mandatory to take a humanities course.

Students entering college – usually 17 or 18-years-old – are expected to know what to do with their lives, hence the need to choose a “major” – or area of study. But realistically, most 18-year-olds don’t know what they would like to do for the remainder of their existence and rational people would agree that it’s absurd to think otherwise.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80 percent of students in the United States change their major at least once. It’s evident that the vast majority of college students don’t know which direction they would like to pursue.

As a college career progresses, students are exposed to classes and ideologies they wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to had the curriculum not been expansive. The math course that students are essentially forced to take could end up being lifechanging – just like the philosophy course ended up being. The student – the one who first chose to study biology – might discover his or her passion for math as a result of the curriculum in place.

Inevitably, there’s a frustrating feeling associated with devoting time to studying a topic that might not have any perceived influence on a student’s life once school is over.

Even if that topic doesn’t provoke a passion that causes the student to change his or her major, it does create a more versatile student and person. The Renaissance education students in the United States often take for granted breeds societal flexibility.