Bird courses

Are you getting your money’s worth?

written by Matt Stickland
April 3, 2016 10:26 am

I realize with a start that I haven’t been paying attention in quite some time. The professor has been talking, of that I’m sure. I haven’t heard a word of it. My note sheet, optimistically titled and dated at the start of the class, remains empty. For my lack of attention to the lecture, I’m no closer to figuring out how Luke Skywalker would have fared against Darth Maul. This likely won’t effect my grade. I’m not bragging, I’m in the middle of a bird course.

The argument about bird courses goes something like this, it’s easy to boost my GPA, but am I getting my money’s worth?

I originally picked the course because I was interested in the subject. I also thought it would compliment my major. On both counts I was correct. However, I haven’t yet been officially accepted into my major. I’ve been out of school for a while and my marks the first time around were, in a word, abysmal. So I need to prove to the university that I belong at their institution. Ironically, I think I need to do well to prove that I’m not wasting their time. I need a good mark in this class to get accepted into my major. So I am staying in my bird course. For others, the appeal of bird courses is that they can spend more time on the harder classes of their major. Either way, the appeal of the bird course is that you get a big academic payout, for little academic effort. For many that trade is worth it.

It’s possible that my opinion on the other side of this argument is colored by the fact that I’m over 30 and now, more than in my youth, appreciate the value of a dollar. I’ve paid $1398 for this course according to my tuition breakdown on myDal. It’s a full year course. Yet I do not feel that I am receiving $1398 worth of knowledge from this class. Especially when I compare it to my other courses. Bird courses are easy for many reasons. The prof tests directly from the text book. The prof gives all the answers to tests in the class before. No essays. The prof realizes how inadequate high school is at preparing students for university so softens the blow of rigorous academic standards I expect from a higher education. Regardless of the reasons, the simple fact is, for those paying attention, we are paying exponentially more than we are receiving in education.

I’m torn on this. I thought that perhaps I was just cynical in my old age of 32. In writing this article I’ve moved from my bird course to a shuttle bound for PEI. There is a kid in the seat in front of me and with his combination of a child’s curiosity and islander friendliness he asks me what I’m doing. I explain and then ask him what he thinks about it.

According to Austin Arsenault age 13, “I think I’d rather keep the money. It’s a lot of money, you could do anything with that money.” Maybe I’m right to feel ripped off.

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