28 June 2015


After my dalliance with psych, I had yet to tap into my Voc Rehab offer from the VA.

I accepted and got them to pay for a degree in Mechanical Drafting and Machine Design, an associates program at the local community college.

I love the work and I liked working with engineers.

I also heard some flabbergasting stories about how they came to get their degrees.

Something that came up over and over is something I experienced myself.  Before I decided on going into psych, I was planning on going Aerospace Engineering.

Why the change of major, especially when I was spending my own hard earned on tuition and living with my mom to save money?

Cut classes.

Simply put they are classes intended to cull the herd of prospects advancing farther into the programs.

The first such gateway class at Iowa State University was Engineering Calculus.  It's the same math that math majors were learning across the hall, but graded very differently.  On a curve so steep that calling it logarithmic is an insult to exponential (or vice versa).

It was also taught by a TA whose first language was not English, nor was his second or third.  It's more an act of defiance and perseverance to keep taking the class until you blow the curve and pass than an actual accomplishment in learning.  Couple this with the likelihood of never actually manually doing these calculations again and you start to think you're wasting your time.

I took it twice before I passed on the third try.  And it burned me out harder than I've ever burned out before.

I took a semester off to consider my options.  Then two.  Then the rest of they year.  I got a shitty job delivering pizzas.  Got a girlfriend.

Then I changed my major.

With my Business Admin degree now under my belt I see something striking about the cut class.  The university gets paid whether you pass or fail.  The bar for failure is higher for intendants going on one track than it is for any other.  They get paid and also don't have to expand the engineering college to accommodate more students!  The people who fail out or give up don't impact the number of successful engineering graduates.  They have no incentive to make it make more sense!

So next time you wonder why there's less interest in STEM, the gate keepers have set up a system where the smartest people can see it's a scam and say fuck it.  And people like me too.


  1. Saw this in 87 when I started at college, too. I was in my first Applied Physics class and about 10 min into it, I yelled "drop slip" and ran from Applied Physics as a major.

  2. I majored in Marine Science....it started out as just a straight Bio Degree (in the end the degrees in the job force level are identical, as I can't recall the last time I handled a live fish...and it's probably been over a decade since I did so for a paycheck) but then Organic Chemistry I & II came around. #1 I passed with a D, #2 I flunked hard with my nose to the grindstone.

    Pretty demoralizing, and I didn't elect to re-take it immediately (If I didn't pass it the previous semester, why would the NEXT one be any different?), and ended up taking so many fish courses that it would have taken me an extra semester to get the bio degree...and I would need to take Orgo II and pass.

    Of course now I have a successful career in Bio Medicine, and while I do use some understanding of organic chemistry in my day-to-day, it isn't the shit that left me weeping as I struggled to comprehend it.

    Yep, weeder courses SUCK, and I also don't agree with them. You should be graded on knowing the shit you're supposed to know, and classes in a track should build on the skills of the previous classes, so if you study for the test, and don't learn your shit, you won't do well moving forward.


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