Guyanese I meet in New York and others in Guyana and other parts of the diaspora and other acquaintances praise the diversity of my writings (in Economics, Political Science, International Relations, History, Sociology, International Law, natural sciences, religion, educational administration, and polling) and queried about my field of specialization in college.
They say they look forward to what I write. (I look forward for Freddie Kissoon’s columns and a few others and like others I praise his courage of taking on topics that no one else dares to. He exposes hypocrisy and duplicitous nature of some in our society). Readers are curious to know how I am so knowledgeable to comment on a wide variety of issues from so many academic subjects when college allows a major and a minor in a subject each. What is my field (subject of) specialization, they curiously ask.
The simple answer is I completed accredited degrees (except in religion although I studied various religions) in all of them in a college classroom setting and thus have developed some level of competence in various subjects or disciplines allowing me the knowledge to write on varied issues. I suggest the same for students at UG. Everyone should have a well rounded education.
Where I did my undergraduate degree, City College of New York, requires, mandates, a well-rounded education in various disciplines. Thus, although I majored in Bio-Chemistry (that also required Biology, Physics, Mathematics and a concentration in Chemistry) for my BS, a foundation in the social sciences and the arts was required and because of my interest in those other disciplines I pursued degrees in all of them all the way to the doctoral level.
Hence my knowledge and background in various disciplines or subjects. That, however, does not make me an expert in all those subjects. There are several Guyanese I
admire as real specialists and experts in their fields – scholars like Drs Ramesh Gampat, Tarron Khemraj, Ivelaw Griffith, Baytoram Ramharack, Randy Persaud, Khalil Gibran, Bertrand Ramsarran, Somdath Mohbir, Swami Aksharnand, among others, all of who are specialists in their selected field and who can and should be approached to make contributions to our nation. I also feel that UG should encourage students to take courses beyond their majors to gain greater knowledge in other disciplines than their majors. One should not only be trained in the field in which they plan to build a career but to gain knowledge in other disciplines as those of us who were trained in America did. More knowledge does not hurt.
To get an undergraduate degree at the City University system or at any college worldwide requires some serious classroom studies (a major that results in a specialization in a subject that provides one with some level of competence in the field and a skill set). But the CUNY system and true of any American college provides a student with a well-rounded academic background although one has to specialize in a subject. I understand UG and or other non-American colleges (not sure about colleges in Eastern Europe and Asia although in India there is mandated general education in addition to specialization) follow a similar system. The non-American system seems to have a more limited cluster of subjects unlike the CUNY system that permitted students wide latitude to take for example English language or Theater courses even if one were majoring in Bio-Chemistry like me.
I strongly believe that students should have a well-rounded education and championed that position when I sat on college committees. When I was a student in City College of NY, I ran for student government (Spring 1978) and won representation and was re-elected several times in the undergraduate students council representing the natural sciences and social sciences (as President) at the grad level. Representatives of the student government sat on college wide (CCNY) as well as university wide (CUNY) committees on wide ranging policy-making including on curriculum. (CUNY has some two dozens campuses with each having its own degree granting authority but only the Graduate Center grants PhD). Every college and university wide and subject department (in every campus) mandated (during my years of studies) student government and elected faculty representation in every committee. I sat on several such committees at CCNY and gave my input on requirements for a degree including the broad educational background students should receive for their foundation and skill set.
Even the NY public education system over the last two decades (at the secondary and junior secondary level), as per state law, required parent, student, and faculty representation in the management of the schools). As a member of the faculty and as the elected union representative, for a dozen years I was elected and re-elected as chair of the educational leadership committee that ran my public institute of employment. The committee approved curriculum in the schools and must give assent to major changes in instruction governance and hiring of management staff.
The American system requires a well rounded, balanced education and a foundation in various subjects and disciplines. I took advantage of the diversity of requirement when I pursued my undergraduate degree to take courses in various disciplines. Thus, I was able to develop some background in various subjects (sciences, social studies, international law, education, humanities, arts, etc.) in addition to specializing in Bio-Chemistry. My case is probably very unique in that I went on to earn degrees in Bio-Chemistry, various social science subjects, and educational administration and also acquired a foundation in international and American constitutional law. This provide me the skill set and background to write on various subject matters. American colleges are transitioning to a requirement that all students take World Civilization and humanities courses in addition to foreign languages; whereas in the past general studies were Euro-centric, they are now global studies oriented. Students at UG should be encouraged, if not required, to take a greater variety of courses other than those related to their field of specialization. Curriculum and syllabus must be broadened.
This would enable students to gain a wider understanding of people and society that would perhaps lead to a lessening of conflict.
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