To our students:
Professor Toru Egawa
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Freshmen at Kitasato University mainly study what we call “Group-1 subjects”. This terminology is unique to our school and more generally, those subjects are called general academic subjects. Let me explain why you study these subjects at university, where you are supposed to acquire specialized knowledge.
The reason for learning Group-1 subjects
First of all, this group includes a sub-group, which we call “basic academic subjects”: physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, information science and English. To understand the purpose of learning these cannot be difficult. Although you studied these subjects in high school, your knowledge is not sufficient as preliminary foundation for learning specialized fields of subjects. Therefore, those basic subjects are offered to bridge the gap.
As these subjects emphasize the continuation from high school education, you might feel they are no more than review. The contents of these subjects, however, soon exceed the high-school level. In the end, this part of education will consolidate your “basic strength,” which will sustain you as professionals in the future.
Next, we have another group called “basic subjects for forming humanity”: ethics, philosophy, art, literature, sociology, and psychology. Some of you will take genuine interest in these fields irrespective of their future usefulness; you become intellectually excited. Others, quite a few students indeed, may question the meaning and necessity of learning these subjects. Teachers at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences believe in the importance of those subjects. We value them as much as, even more than, basic academic subjects.
When you start work life, it is “human beings” --- people with emotions, people with weaknesses and strengths --- that you interact with. Besides the stage from which you will be acting will be globalized Japan in mid-21st century. Surely some of your will choose to work abroad and many of you will work alongside or interact with non-Japanese people. Given this situation, in order for you to flourish as active contributors in society, it is necessary to know human nature, Japanese society in historical perspective, and foreign cultures and customs (how they are different from Japanese). This is the raison d’être of Humanity subjects.
This so-called “cultural” education may not appear to be practical unlike specialized studies provided from the second year on. As a matter of fact, you may not even recognize what you have actually gained from these subjects for the rest of your life. The lack of consciousness, however, does not mean non-existence of utility. Nobody can demonstrate which part of the body is formed out of what they ate yesterday but we are what eat and what we eat does constitute us. The same is true for certain kinds of learning.
“Volitional” or self-directed leaning
You must have been told that undergraduates, unlike high school students, should not be just taught but need to study voluntarily and actively. Unfortunately, the reality of university education is still more about unilateral (from teaches to students) delivery of knowledge. This is rather inevitable as what you have to learn within the limited time at university is multi-faceted and voluminous. Self-directed study alone cannot capture it all.
Having said that, we hope you will acquire the “skills to learn what is necessary independently” as much as possible while you are undergraduates. You need these skills in the true sense once you graduate. Whatever profession you settle into, you cannot survive only with the knowledge and skills you have gained up to that point. Even if you learn the cutting-edge, latest information while you are students, it will become obsolete in no time. Thus, you must keep seeking new information all throughout your working life. You need to cope without the help of teachers, systematic curriculums, or study companions. All that is there is a vast sea of knowledge accumulated by human kind. The power and ability to swim through this sea is what is most important among what you should attain at university. There is no single subject to instill and nurture this ability for ‘self-directed study’; you need to acquire it through all kinds of subjects, whether they are on general/cultural issues or specialized expertise.