The ideals and philosophy of the Miami Plan are innumerably valuable. A liberal education will not only enrich our knowledge in principle, but also provide skills and practices that will influence how valuable our diverse skills are to employers, our personal paradigm, our ideologies, and enhance our decision-making skills. A comprehensive education in addition to a particular concentration better prepares us for tackling situations and making critical choices in our future. It will complement and strengthen our own understanding of the specializations that we committed to dedicating years of our lives to developing. By choosing Miami University, we voluntarily accepted this challenge to make our education comprehensive. And by being currently and actively involved in this philosophy’s system, we have an interest in the structure and composition in the program. If there is a general consensus that the principle is sound, but the implementation is flawed, then we must reform the system to make it the program as romantic as its ideology.
The sad fact remains that, in practice, the detriments of the Miami Plan undermine its significance. Instead of seeing the Miami Plan as a marketable benefit to their higher education, students view it as extremely limiting and stressful because we struggle with so many constraints that dictate the content of our undergraduate years. When I scheduled my classes for next semester, I was forced to consider the requirements of my major, my two minors, the College of Arts and Science (CAS), the honors program, the instructor, providing a block of time for an internship, and conflicting times of courses offered. Instead of choosing liberal education classes based on interest, we are forced to submit to these scheduling pressures and, in turn, sacrifice taking a course we would have legitimate interest in for a course that simply conforms. In practice, the Miami Plan deemphasizes the exploration of students’ varying interests to shape their learning experience and development, and instead confines students to take classes they have little interest in. The very notion that convenience would trump quality of education is a shame to our liberal arts university.
I must admit I am quite ignorant to the consideration involved in choosing which courses Miami deems as fulfilling a liberal education, and which are the ones that would not. Why are some physics courses acceptable for the science requirement in CAS, but not accepted by the standards of the Miami Plan? This discrimination of certain courses almost seems to suggest some courses are not considered valuable enough to contribute to a comprehensive education. As it stands, Miami Plan courses are typically overcrowded lecture halls with high levels of apathy coupled with low levels of attendance, which should be expected when we choose convenient classes over courses we have an interest in. And while we can petition for a course we believe should be an acceptable alternative, the process is serving as a temporary solution, and proper and extensive review and revision should take place.
The good news is the limiting nature of the Miami Plan as it stands can be remedied. Instead of case-by-case petitioning by students for courses to be deemed as fulfilling requirements, we must reevaluate the content of the courses to then make more courses fulfill requirements. This would result in smaller Miami Plan classes, distributing the student body into more courses. But the most important benefit would be to the students’ comprehensive education. By lessening requirement restrictions, students will be able to participate in classes they have an interest in, and be able to explore those interests instead of selecting a class they have no interest in. If more courses are accepted as being Miami Plan courses, the hypothetical Politics major with a hidden passion for Photography can explore his interests, instead of taking notes on Art History, for instance. He can then exercise his varying interests without ever undermining the notion of a liberal education.
The philosophy of the Miami Plan distinguishes Miami, and we should fight to protect it. At Miami, we reject the notion that we are simply putting in our time here to yield a more profitable future. We also have the wildly romantic notion that we can become valuable thinkers by enhancing the breadth of our knowledge. This unwavering truth rests on the fact that human beings are curious creatures. We yearn to learn; innovation, research, and critical thought have always been intrinsic parts of human societies. Like many great thinkers before us, we Miami students believe in the value of a liberal education. So let’s make the Miami Plan and its fundamental principle something we can believe in again.