Tradition vs. Transformation in Universities

Have you ever been sitting in class and wondered, “Why am I taking this class again? How is this class even relevant to my career aspirations?” I know I personally have, and it is beyond frustrating. A large amount of time gets spent on one class, and that’s time I could have spent learning about things that will benefit me in the future.

So what makes up a good curriculum for college bachelor programs? Missouri students felt that their curriculum needed tweeking, and spoke out about it. They created a website to talk about these issues. The students talk about the book “Letters from a young journalist,” written by Samuel Freedman. Freedman, now a Columbia professor, states that he learned most of what he knows by working for his college newspaper- not the classroom. He describes most of his undergraduate courses as a waste.

While I agree that a lot of classes that are required for my major aren’t the most useful or practical, I wouldn’t say that most of my classes were a waste. Several of these classes have in fact been beneficial to me, such as learning about social media in depth and learning how to build websites.

Colleges and universities across the nation are starting to develop curriculums that teach students a little bit of information about a lot of different things. While that is good, especially for a journalism major, there still needs to be a strong focus on the classes that are directly in reference to your major. I know I would have benefitted from taking more public relations classes.

The site also talks about tradition and degree programs that are so reliant on past courses, that they offer little to no educational value to the current students.  The nation’s first journalism school, the Missouri School of Journalism, is used as an example and the authors say that teachers have become so engrained in their sequences there that  several different classes aren’t touchable.

According to the site, the Missouri School of Journalism often talks about change and adaptation, which is great, but several teachers and faculty aren’t really making those changes. When it comes down to it, tradition trumps transformation there.

I’m not completely opposed to tradition, but I can’t help but realize the gravity of the need for an education that is constantly adapting to how things are now, as opposed to how they were. Otherwise, your education is merely a history lesson and not preparing you for what’s to come. In my opinion, schools that focus on tradition and neglect to incorporate the changes that are happening in journalism and PR are doing a huge disservice to their students.

I think overall ASU does a good job of focusing on journalism and public relations how it is today. I know in my classes we are constantly talking about the changes that are going on in the industries and how to prepare for it. However, most of our required classes are not related to journalism or public relations, and while some of them I find useful, others I agree with the students in the Missouri School of Journalism when they say these classes were a waste of time- time that I could have spent better preparing myself for life after college.

So what do you think? Do you think colleges need to do a better job of incorporating the changes that are happening in the journalism and public relations industries? Or do you prefer a more traditional education?

I opt for change and adaptation. I think the site says it best when it says, “Graduates must be prepared for today’s newsroom, not the newsroom of five years ago.”

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3 Responses to Tradition vs. Transformation in Universities

  1. bgansar says:

    Of course colleges need to incorporate changes in our fields into the classrooms. The problem is our teachers are not longer in the fields that are changing and it is a rare seed to find one that keeps up on the trends. We choose majors like PR to get away from the traditional teachings, so when we are required to take classes that do not pertain to us in any way it is very frustrating. It feels like schools require the classes just to make the quota of credit hours or something, instead they should make innovative classes that will help us for when we graduate.

  2. bjohnson says:

    I definitely think colleges need to stay on top of offering classes that are helpful to the newer generations. I would hate to only have had traditional public relation techniques taught to me this year, as social media is on the forefront of all things PR. I agree that some traditional approaches should be instituted but generally, the newer topics need to be covered in order for students to be adequately prepared for what lurks in the real world.

    As far as my personal education has been, I would say that there were core classes that helped me understand PR a lot and there were a handful of classes that I could have cared less about taking. For example, all majors in the Cronkite School have to take the business and future of journalism. Unfortunately the course is heavily weighted toward the problems that print majors will face as the newspaper industry crumbles. I would much rather have been able to choose a completely different course related to PR. Perhaps research and evaluation.

  3. wwillis says:

    I personally feel a HUGE change needs to be taken in j-schools to incorporate PR as a bigger part of the curriculum. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a class just on the future of PR? Or a class on research PR? There is definitely room for growth and I am glad that certain universities are taking chances and moving forward.

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