Bethel University students and faculty reflect on what makes a major “easy.”
By Tegan LaBerge | Royal Report
Senior music major Mimi Genheimer swung her rusty orange backpack over her shoulder and adjusted a fraying baseball cap.
“Some majors require thinking that is more difficult than others. I think it would be foolish of me to not admit that.” — Dr. Barrett Fisher, dean of arts and sciences
“Wanna see the music locker room?” she asked with a secretive grin. She punched in the four digit code to a keypad attached to an old wooden door. Inside, rows of silver metal cages are stacked in incongruous rows. Crumpled sheet music littered the floor.
Genheimer fiddled with her locker combination, “A lot of people think we just hold hands and sing songs. They don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. In music you spend a lot of extra time on your craft.”
Genheimer smirked, her baby-blue eyes flashing. “But I’d love to see one of those people try to do pitch cell nomenclature sometime. Nobody even knows what that is.”
Genheimer isn’t the only one who finds her major confronted with a weak rap. Education department professor Jay Rasmussen is tired of hearing education portrayed as less intellectually challenging. Rasmussen champions the art and science behind teaching. Just this year he and five other professors presented Bethel’s curriculum at a national conference to learn why the school has been so successful.
“I think here [in the elementary education department] we all fantasize about placing a chemist or physicist in a second grade classroom for a day and seeing if they still think it’s easy.” — Jay Rasmussen, professor
“Within the U.S., the profession of teaching has been devalued,” he said. “I would argue that the most difficult experience for a student here at Bethel is going through our block two.”
Block two is the final step that senior elementary education majors take in completing their education degree. Each day requiring students to not only come to class at Bethel, but go complete a full day of teaching, too.
“I think here [in the elementary education department] we all fantasize about placing a chemist or physicist in a second grade classroom for a day and seeing if they still think it’s easy,” Rasmussen said with a smile.
Dr. Barrett Fisher, dean of the Arts and Humanities department at Bethel, leaned forward onto his elbows at the small oak table in his office. The early morning sun glinted off his wire-rimmed glasses. “Some majors require thinking that is more difficult than others,” Fisher said. “I think it would be foolish of me to not admit that.”
Graduating senior Cindy Turner twirled her curly brown hair as she reflected on her time at Bethel. Like Fisher, she sees a major as more difficult depending on the kind of thinking it requires. A communication studies and Spanish major, Turner picked up a philosophy minor “to make up for what was missing” in her communication degree.
“In communication, I can get good grades by putting in time and showing up,” Turner said. “But in Spanish and philosophy you have to work up to getting an A.”
Dr. Nancy Brule, chair of the communication studies department, provided a different perspective.
“A lot of students fall into communication studies late because they feel like they don’t fit in their former major,” Brule said. “When they get into communication the classes make sense, they’re interesting and engaging. Our students work just as hard, it just doesn’t feel like work.”
Leaning back in his chair Fisher swiveled to look out at Kresge Courtyard.
“Bethel is a college for all kinds of majors,” he stressed. “It doesn’t mean some are any less valuable. Unfortunately, the money that some majors make reflects society’s values. Education is the stereotypical example of this.”
Genheimer swung open her locker and reached for her violin. She jauntily lifted the sleek instrument to her chin and let it croon out a melody.
She paused, “Obviously there are majors with more work required outside of class,” Genheimer said. “But a lot of what makes a major difficult is in the hands of the student. I know music majors and biology majors who spend the same amount of time.”
“We need to look at the issue of “easier” majors within a larger framework. Certain abilities are more widespread than others and fewer people can excel in some majors than others.” — Dr. Barrett Fisher, dean of arts and humanities
“Our major defends itself. Our colleagues see us as a rigorous major and that is in large part due to our top-notch faculty.” — Dr. Joel Fredrickson, department chair and professor of psychology
“In terms of ACT score students are well distributed amongst the various majors and I think that’s a good thing because at a school like Bethel so much of what you do is general education, it’s not specifically in your major.” — Dan Nelson, chief institutional data and research officer
“If you are in a major that doesn’t require that heavy content critical thinking piece and if you don’t push yourself, you can get away with, well…haha, an easier major.” — Cindy Turner, senior communication and Spanish major