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Our community college district needs to encourage students to explore interests outside of their major.

With the way things are currently, students are encouraged to only take classes in the field they’ve chosen and some find general education to be a burden and hindrance to their goal. But students need to explore their interests to become innovative and well-rounded individuals.

I’m not saying we need more general education per say, but it would be extremely beneficial if students could pursue other interests through classes without the worry of it affecting their GPA.

Knowledge of a variety of topics is crucial to have a greater understanding of the world and the people in it. Oftentimes people are think a certain way based on the field they’re in. They’re unable to see things from a different perspective.

But how is this beneficial? In order to create the best of ideas, different perspectives and knowledge needs to be combined. Take for example Steve Jobs, who took a calligraphy course in college which he then implemented into the Mac computer.

“It was the first computer with beautiful typography,” he told Forbes in a 2012 article. “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

Looking at how majors connect in a broader sense and connecting concepts among various topics is what can propel us into new and better ideas. Currently, it feels as if students are supposed to decide which category to be in, and we become experts in that category.

Some may argue it would be better to be experts in one topic than mediocre in many. But this is not what I’m saying. Be an expert in your field. But also, take time to expand your knowledge in other topics as well of your own choosing.

Our school district is focused on increasing graduation rates and getting students out quickly, which is not a bad thing. However, their methods seem to benefit them more than the students.

There is a program called Guided Pathways, which does have many great qualities and is meant to achieve the aforementioned goals of the district. But it encourages students to decide on a major and stick to the straightforward plan set for them by the counselor regarding what classes to take.

Describing the benefits of the program, Skyline’s website boasts, “fewer excess units taken”. I have to admit, I do have excess units. But you know what it was for, exploring my interests and the various career paths by actually trying them rather than just hearing about them.

I’d take even more if I could if I could take them solely to gain knowledge without fear for my GPA. But even with the extra units I have, I’ve obtained a greater understanding of the world and how people in other majors think. Why limit myself from greater empathy and knowledge?

Yes, it’s true students may be here longer and I’ve definitely fallen victim to the idea of having to be successful by 25. But I’ll have a degree with knowledge of multiple topics, and know I’ve invested time to enhance my skills and chance for success.

But in order to make this common, the district would have to make some changes, and encourage students to explore rather take a straightforward path. Students may take more time to graduate, but they’ll be better human beings.

They’d also need to make it so that students know they can learn topics they are not looking to have a degree in without the fear of it affecting their GPA. I have seen no advertisement of such and doubt that many know they can do such a thing or how to do it.

SMCCCD should encourage a more holistic rather than myopic approach about taking classes because it creates more innovative and well-rounded individuals.