Requirements and curriculums have structured our formal education since we were young. They set guidelines for teachers, goals for students and establish a certain quality to the overall learning experience.
Curriculums tell us what is "most important," what we "should" know and assign value to certain subjects and topics within the great pool of human knowledge. Curriculums lend themselves to establishing requirements - know the textbook information and the notes so they can be regurgitated in order to pass the tests, the class, the grade - all leading up to graduation from high school upon completing the required number of credits.
Even at the university level, where we have a little more freedom in choosing what we want to study, there is still the curriculum of core courses every student has to take and certain requirements that everyone has to meet. We're so used to working under a curriculum to reach certain requirements to advance - but what happened to acquiring knowledge for its own sake, rather than to fulfill an item on a "to do" list?
"Meeting requirements" has been pounded into our brains for so many years that we have become complacent, able and willing to do only what we need to do to get by. We are told what courses are most important to gain the knowledge necessary to be a well-rounded person and proficient in the field which we hope to pursue. We take their word for it (whoever they are doesn't really matter - it's not us as individuals) and get excited when one class satisfies two requirements, myself included.
The quest for knowledge, without ulterior motives, has widely been disregarded by the students of our generation. We do what we must to get by, and then move on to get the diploma and the degree, then the job. Our intellectual independence, or intellectual curiosity, is being taken from us, being replaced with the goal of completing a list for the sake of advancement.
As I have become more and more aware of this intellectual slump of checklists and bare minimums, I have become determined to escape from its shallow and, quite frankly, sad confines. Ideally, everyone should (and I wish I did) have the opportunity to spend more than four years at a university, not worrying about obtaining a degree, but rather quenching what should be a natural thirst for knowledge in any and every subject of interest. But, of course, there are the worldly issues of money, careers that require degrees, and the fast-paced nature of society that doesn't allow for this type of study.
Even so, we as individuals should wake up from this lazy intellectual sleep and go out there and soak up all the knowledge the world has to offer us. Instead of feeling burdened by requirements, we should be eager and excited to learn new things, and take the initiative to satisfy curiosity. Instead of "having" to learn, we should want to learn - because in the long run, a developed intellect is more valuable than a GPA.
Liz Doyle is a freshman English major and educational maverick.