One of the happiest moments at the beginning of my freshman year was when I placed out of the foreign-language requirement. I hated taking a language all through high school; I found little intellectual benefit from largely rote memorization of material in which I had no interest and little expectation of future benefit.
In my view, the language requirement is outdated. Students who want to learn a language can do so in a variety of ways, including travel, immersion classes, and online study. What is the benefit of requiring the use of limited course slots at Princeton to get an experience available elsewhere? What is the benefit of requiring proficiency in a language, rather than in other areas where a basic understanding would be of use throughout life for all students: logical thinking, literary analysis, economics, finance, statistics, medicine, law, politics, foreign affairs?
Now Princeton is considering increasing the foreign-language burden (On the Campus, Dec. 7), and I ask: Why? Who exactly is supposed to benefit? If the goal is to increase cultural awareness, a course in English would permit less siloed discussions.
Had I been forced to take such a class, I would have been completely disengaged — minimal work, minimal attendance, minimal participation, with no broadening benefit. If a class cannot attract students by being useful or interesting, it should not exist. Students will vote with their feet in choosing classes or colleges, and across many interviewed prospective students, I have yet to find a student who is interested in Princeton because of its requirements rather than its opportunities.