Thursday, February 3, 2011

Education Brouhaha Explained

Over the last several years, I have been in a battle of sorts with my ex-post secondary institution (which, for the time, shall remain nameless). I have explained the situation to many friends and colleagues but I always seem to leave a piece of the puzzle out. Therefore, I thought I’d take a few moments and tell the entire tale to friends and random strangers alike so everyone can understand my frustration.

I obtained a Ba in Psychology a few years back from the school in question (which from this point forward will be called school Alpha). I will first admit that I regret taking this route. Originally I planned to transfer from school Alpha to another school (we’ll call school Beta) and get a Ba that way (as school B was a bit better recognized). However, my school introduced a new joint degree program with a third institution (which we’ll call school Gamma). I was hesitant to join the Alpha/Gamma degree as school Gamma was not as well known as schools Alpha and Beta. But peers and counselors at school Alpha all convinced me that it was a really good idea. I did like the idea of being able to finish my degree at school Alpha instead of having to transfer, as school Alpha was more relaxed and low-key than school Beta. As the program commenced, I learned that it wasn’t nearly as wonderful as I was led to believe.

All courses were taught at school A, but there were a handful of required courses that were offered only by school Gamma. So what happened was school Gamma provided the course curriculum AND the instructors. That doesn’t sound so bad…until you learn that the instructors provided, for the most part, had NO teaching experience! It was a travesty. There was one instructor who graded our first papers of the year and no one got above 80%. When we questioned why no one did well, she said that she did not give a grade higher than 80% on the first paper in order to motivate students to try harder for the final paper. Awww, how sweet. However, what the idiot instructor neglected to realize is that no matter how well we did on the final paper, we still could not ace the course. And to many of us, an “A” average was very important. Another instructor had her head so far up her ass that she absolutely refused to accept that her students may follow a different theoretical approach than her own, leading to her and me butting heads on a few occasions. A third instructor gave us a notes package and then basically read the notes day after day…why I bothered going to that class is beyond me. The list goes on, but you get the point. And to make matters worse, the school Gamma credits were not valid as school Alpha credits, even though the courses were taught in school Alpha! Ugh!

Anyway, once I had boarded the ship, it became harder and harder for me to bail. Fortunately, I completed the joint degree with something like a 3.8 or 3.9 GPA. It’ll do, piggy. It’ll do. I was satisfied for a time.

About two years after I completed my Alpha/Gamma degree, school Alpha began to offer its own degrees in psychology. More importantly, Alpha was offering an HONOURS degree in psychology. Since completing my degree, I had decided that I wanted to do more than counseling…I wanted to be a clinical psychologist and research cures for mental disorders instead of helping people one at a time. To enter the clinical stream of graduate studies (at least at school Beta), one must have an honours degree in psychology. Well, this was all like a wonderful dream. I already had most of the credits I needed for the honours degree through the same school, so I would save time and money. I figured I could get things back on track quickly and I’d be on my way to fulfilling my dream.

Things are never that easy though, are they? I went to school Alpha and applied, and was quickly accepted due to my GPA and my alumnus status. But when I went to register, school Alpha dropped the bomb on me. “You cannot have two of the same degree. You can’t enter the BaH program. Sorry, kthxbai.”

What? That didn’t make any sense. First of all, it’s not technically the same degree. One is a Ba and the other a BaH. Different. Second of all, what fucking difference does it make? Seriously, who cares if I have a Ba and a BaH both in psychology? It’s not like I could somehow commit career fraud or something. I was confused as to why I was being road blocked by something so nonsensical it bordered on ludicrous. When I asked for an explanation, the advisor told me she did not know. She recommended a person in the school with whom I could speak about the matter. Sadly, this person was also clueless as to why the rule was in place. I was passed on from person to person and to this day I’ve spoken to about a dozen different individuals at school Alpha and NO ONE has been able to explain why I cannot have a BaH in addition to a Ba. Also, all of these people were very “busy,” as it was often a couple of weeks before I could speak to the next person. Several said they would “look into” the matter before telling me they had no answers, and of course proved themselves unreliable as I had to initiate multiple callbacks just to get them to do as they promised. Nice.

Frustrated with the bureaucratic bullshit, I went over the proverbial head of school Alpha and I contacted the Minister of Education in my province. I received a reply not two weeks later that basically told me that the government had absolutely no authority over post secondary institutions because they are technically businesses and are free to set their own rules. The Minister of Education failed to provide any insight as to why I could not hold two psychology degrees though, which perplexed me. Surely the government would have knowledge of such rules?

I’ve kept on with the fight for so long, but it wears on me. I’m stuck with a dilemma. Three choices, all equal in their negative consequences (potential or actual).

1. Stick with fighting school Alpha. There’s no guarantee I’ll get my answers or get in. But if I am successful, it will be much less expensive than going to school Beta, as school Beta is more expensive per course and I can only take 20 credits when I transfer, whereas I have almost all the credits if I remain in school Alpha.

2. Go to school Beta via transfer and obtain my BaH there. More expensive, but that’s not really a big deal if it means I can get where I want to be. The major problem is I will likely run into the same roadblock as with school Alpha…”can’t have two of the same degree and we don’t know why kthxbai.” I plan to look into this issue early next week. If school Beta does not have such an asinine rule, I’ll probably just transfer and get on with my life the way I want.

3. Go to school Beta via psychology degree and enter the standard graduate studies program. It’s not exactly what I want to do, but at least I’d be moving forward and would still have the prestige of being a doctor of psychology. I’ve been told by a few people that if a student can get in good with a professor in graduate school, the student may be able to jump from the standard stream to the clinical stream. That’s a pretty big gamble though, especially since I’m not a butt-kisser.

I am so torn between these choices. I like the idea of #1 because it would be less expensive, expedient, and I HATE to lose. Idea #2 has merit because it technically could be worth the extra cost to not have to deal with the crap. Idea #3 kind of sucks, but if the schools won’t let me have two degrees in psychology, what else can I possibly do? I will also look into the possibility of rescinding my current degree so that I technically do not have two…but that’s iffy and it does make me uncomfortable (what if I eliminate my Ba and then I can’t get into a BaH program for other reasons?).

If anyone has any experience with this sort of situation and can offer some sort of insight, or if you have an opinion of which option I should stick with, please let me know. Any constructive input would help me worth through this extremely frustrating aspect of my life.


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