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One thing I’d change about Oxford… academic freedom

Michael Shao wishes that there was a little more choice in papers beyond one's chosen subject

I am happy and quite sure that my classmates and I will have studied political theory to a greater depth than most political science majors at liberal arts institutions have.

That fact, and a probabilistically high potential for a career as a MP is perhaps what draws so many students to study PPE at Oxford. What I am unhappy about, however, and what I wish we could change about Oxford, is that I should be expected to spend all my academic time reading Mill and pondering the problem of evil.

I found recently, after having built a web crawler for fun, that I quite like writing code. I indulge in my own curiosity through Coursera, the Oxford University Coding Society.

But I speak on behalf of all of us when I say that I would much prefer to enroll in a lecture series taught by a professional in the field than a student society leader explaining loops in Python while on two hours of sleep.

My presence in classes wouldn’t impact how actual compsci majors perform, either. You wouldn’t even be able to tell I was there. I too, wear sweatpants and a hoodie to my lectures.

It can very well be said, and I believe it firmly to be so, that there are numerous budding programmers, novelists, and neuroscientists that may never find their new passions until later on in life or never at all, simply because they were never exposed to them.

Oxford should allow students in their subjects to formally explore others to whatever degree of intensity they feel appropriate. Intellectual curiosity should not be a zero sum game.

Instead, there is a prevailing view that study in one’s own subject leaves no time for others. That once we made the sacred, wax-sealed decision to read whatever we are reading, and accepted our offers, our lives will follow the same, with tremendous continuity and consistency—and that, is a shame.

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