LSE100 Is Intellectually Insincere

When interviewing Paul Kelly for an article on assessment diversification, the then-ProDirector for Education at the LSE made a remark that stuck with me through the summer and into my second (and gladly final) term of LSE100.  

Kelly suggested that the students that did best in LSE100 were those in Law, and Accounting & Finance programmes. His reasoning behind this being students in these programmes were highly reliant on second year internships, and LSE100 provided them with an opportunity to get a good grade and thus an internship.

This message had been echoed by my Michaelmas Term teacher, who boasted to their class about the role of the course in satisfying Summer internship employers. And then once again this year, my teacher cheerfully explained that we had spent an hour ogling at Tableau because it would be good to say that we had experience in it for our CVs, and that consultancies and finance employers used Tableau regularly.

These accounts about the role of LSE100, given to me in three different scenarios and throughout the course of a year, have at least one key thing in common: the course has nothing to do with understanding challenging global issues, developing a multidisciplinary approach to solving questions, or even understanding the causes of things.

A foundational myth about LSE100 I have heard from students is as unsurprising: many say that this course’s creation was a direct response to complaints from big employers in the city. LSE students were smart, but they weren’t worldly, and they did not know how to collaborate.

A video published by the LSE in 2012 is perhaps at the cusp of this irony. Academics are heard talking about multidisciplinary approaches to solving big issues, whilst the video pans over a montage of big bank skyscrapers and videos of suited busy-people walking around.

And perhaps this is a good thing. After all, LSE students are outcome-focused, and want to be employed by these companies. However, the lived experience of the vast majority of students I talk to is of LSE100 being a complete waste of time, and more importantly a painful undergoing.

I attribute this to the course’s complete lack of intellectual insincerity. For example, this year we have spent most of our time self-teaching how to use Tableau, by sitting around in groups and coming up with pointless, contextless visualisations. Our assessments and class discussions were marked by a complete superficiality, to the point in which something as basic as comparative advantages failed to come up in an hour long discussion about food imports and safety.

The student body, although actively disliking the course (for the most part), has not been particularly good at expressing these concerns, and mobilising for change. During one of my classes, my partners felt I was being “too harsh” when I provided feedback recommending a complete rethink of the course offering. Although they seemed to agree with me, they felt writing that type of feedback was too much.

The LSE should reflect on this: their flagship interdisciplinary course, which aims to address the world’s most pressing issues, is an empty vessel sailing towards higher employability, and not deeper understanding.

Personally, I believe that the directorate would do well in addressing these concerns. The course could be made better (more engaging, research focused or even interactive), or could be made optional. However, making it optional would perhaps leave the LSE100 team completely overstaffed, due to a complete lack of students.

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