Argument against general education

Argument against general education DEFAULT

General Education courses should not be required

(Amanda Joinson/Collegian File Photo)

At the University of Massachusetts, every undergraduate student is forced to take 11 general education classes. These classes include college writing, basic math, analytical reasoning, biological science, physical science, arts and literature, historical studies, social and behavioral science, social world, global diversity and United States diversity.

To give some perspective, my major, English, requires me to take 12 classes. Students who choose only to take the classes required of them will spend the same amount of time on their Gen Ed requirements as they spend on their core requirements. I believe that Gen Eds are a waste of time.

Combining the time devoted to all Gen Eds, it can be concluded that students will end up spending roughly two whole semesters (one academic year) fulfilling them. This constitutes 25 percent of the four years typically allotted to an undergraduate education.

According to the University, the purpose of taking these 11 classes completely unrelated to our majors is to broaden our horizons. Fair enough. But should we be forced to spend equally as much time on subjects that we are potentially uninterested in and uncomfortable with as we spend on the subject that we are passionate about or good at?

Every day between kindergarten and senior year of high school, we took classes in almost every subject area – math, English, social studies, foreign language, sciences, etc. The classes that challenged us in high school are still equally as likely to challenge us in college. Except now, the GPA that is presented to future employers when we graduate college is potentially 50 percent contingent on our success in these areas, rather than entirely on the subject in which we earned our degrees.

Of course, there is a diverse range of classes that students can take to fulfill these Gen Ed courses, ranging from introductory classes to upper-level classes. The problem with this is that intro classes will not engage students because they know that, typically, only minimal effort is required to succeed in them. Upper-level courses, on the other hand, will overwhelm students because those classes are generally geared toward students with majors in those particular subject areas, even if those classes fulfill a Gen Ed requirement.

Students should not be forced to choose between exerting minimal effort and being subject to the same expectations and work load in a class as the students within that major. Choosing the former will cheapen a student’s desire to engage in their learning. Choosing the latter may potentially force the student to sacrifice a substantial amount of time that they would prefer to spend on courses required for their major. As a result, this may potentially lessen their ability to engage in their major classes, and even lead to a lower GPA due to the lessened available time to spend on those classes.

Gen Ed classes may be useful for students. I believe that writing and diversity classes can be hugely beneficial to students of all majors. Having an understanding of the way that social hierarchies and patterns are constructed and maintained is necessary for acknowledging one’s place in the world. Also, communicating effectively is one of the most important skills not only in the workforce, but in one’s entire life.

However, the sheer amount and range of classes required of students makes them ineffective.  For humanities students like me, taking two different science classes and two different math classes will not benefit their education. Nor is it likely that I will retain the information to apply the knowledge I learn in classes in subject areas that challenge me deeply. Likewise, students in the natural sciences are unlikely to reap any meaningful benefits from taking a literature class. Not only are situations like this inconvenient and unenjoyable, but they can also greatly damage a student’s education if they do poorly in these classes or are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to succeed in subject areas that they have always struggled with.

I believe that the 11 Gen Ed classes should only be required for undeclared students who are most likely exploring their interests and are unsure of what subject areas interest them the most. These students belong to the University demographic that is most likely to reap the benefits of the wide range of Gen Ed courses. They are far less likely to feel reluctant to spend substantial amounts of time on the required classes, due to the fact that they have no higher educational priorities like those faced by students who have declared a major.

Elise Martorano is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email&#;protected]


Fiscal uncertainty has severely impacted curricular reform efforts as faculty and administrators endeavor to maintain the momentum of ongoing change in general education programs despite decreasing resources--not just in dollars but also in faculty goodwill. On many campuses, the general education committee aims to create a more engaging intellectual community and a more coherent undergraduate program. Individual faculty members hope to produce more committed students with strong foundational skills. Administrators work to strengthen the institution's academic identity. But when resource constraints dampen the optimism of these varied campus constituencies, the consequent clash between idealism and realism becomes a serious obstacle to curricular reform.

Initial enthusiasm for change can make everything seem both desirable and possible. To start the change process, the committee may review promising practices on other campuses such as service-learning and interdisciplinary courses. Sensitive to the need for full campus support, the committee may also consult research on institutional change to find relevant process strategies (Gaff ; Eckel et al. ). Too much attention to curricular design and approval, however, can leave a campus unprepared for the practical realities of resource constraints. At what point in the creative process should the hard questions be asked?

The collaborative intellectual processes that generate an idea-effective curriculum are not always the same as those that produce sustainable, cost-effective change. Faculty generally play the primary role in designing the goals and structures of a new curriculum and leave it up to administrators to find the resources. But in the current fiscal context for higher education, both faculty and administrators need to be sensitive to the opportunities for, and costs of, reform. Faculty must learn to calibrate the resources required to actualize general education principles, and administrators must not let cost considerations depress the intellectual vitality of the curriculum. It takes both perspectives for institutions to optimize their limited resources--financial, physical, but most importantly, human--and improve the learning outcomes of students, whose expectations and experiences ultimately determine the quality of a general education curriculum.

Making Learning Count

Typically, general education planning sessions are highly energized as committee members debate how best to enrich the curriculum, enhance pedagogy, engage faculty, and ignite the minds of students. The committee will tend to "dream big," calling for resource-intensive innovations such as small freshmen seminars taught only by full-time faculty. To support new emphases on diversity and global awareness, they may suggest additional faculty and resources for faculty development. If the program relies on co-curricular experiences such as community service programs or residential learning communities, they may suggest integrated staffing with student affairs. To ensure the sustainability of the revised program, the committee may recommend a director with an office, administrative assistant, and graduate students for advising and assessment. All of these "good ideas" take resources.
With student learning rather than resource management as its primary concern, the committee will understandably be reluctant to jettison promising strategies. To accomplish the goals in a cost-effective way, a fiscal perspective is necessary to generate alternative approaches. For example, integrating the freshman seminar with the standard introductory writing course could achieve a key curricular goal without additional faculty resources. Revising the major capstone course to integrate leadership and civic engagement could extend the general education objectives without adding courses

When confronted with resource limitations, the committee must cautiously consider which ideals to sacrifice to ensure that they do not unintentionally compromise program goals. They may decide, for example, to trust voluntary involvement in faculty development or rely on department chairs for oversight and assessment. But these compromises may lead to insufficient guidance for the program, resulting in neglect over time. Indeed, "program drift" may be the primary impetus behind the call for revision. A general education curriculum in place for a long time and taught by a variety of faculty with different assumptions about the underlying principles will show signs of incoherence to both students and professors.

Any committee charged with revising general education may want to determine whether fixing what is not working by reenergizing the conversation about learning will be more resource effective than starting anew. Almost every program could be strengthened by raising standards, making connections, and getting more synergy into the structure and content. If a campus cannot afford to create new writing-intensive courses, for example, it can be more intentional about what writing should take place in which courses, establish common evaluation rubrics, and tell students--repeatedly and throughout the curriculum--that they are accountable for writing well in all of their classes. In short, not everything needs reform and resources; sometimes realigning efforts and refreshing faculty commitment will produce the desired general education outcomes.

Reform Realism

As the committee does its work, the administration is optimistic that a rigorous and attractive general education program will strengthen admissions, assure parents and legislators of value for their investment, support student retention, and provide employers with high-caliber graduates. The president may even launch the reform effort by enthusiastically saying, "Don't worry about resources. We will find the money." And in some cases, tuition dollars captured from competitors or gained through increased retention could be significant enough to support the new program. A dynamic academic environment can also attract gifts and grants to support the facilities or faculty development deemed essential to the new program.

Few campuses have the courage, however, to fund general education revisions based only on the hope of future returns. Consequently, administrators know that to align current resources with the new goals they must rely initially on reallocation. As ideas emerge from the committee, the chief academic officer may be tempted to ask, "What should we stop doing in order to fund capstone courses and undergraduate research?" But finding the resources by top-down cutting of underenrolled classes, eliminating unproductive programs, or taxing all units would quickly lead to a loss of faculty goodwill and doom the reform effort. The more effective strategy is to support the committee as it shows departments how realigning resources to address essential curricular principles throughout the four years can strengthen both general education and the major.

To soften the inevitable clash between ideals and resources, administrators can help the committee during its deliberations by encouraging faculty to identify funding needs at the same time they approve the new curriculum. For example, to guide reallocation of resources based on clear principles, a final reform proposal may set realistic standards for class size (to promote interactive pedagogy) and the percentage of courses to be taught by full-time faculty (to ensure faculty investment in the new curriculum). Administrators can also help the committee identify resources in current curricular offerings that might be invested for greater learning results by analyzing workload, program productivity, and student progression data (Ferren and Slavings ). All campuses are challenged to produce more learning with limited resources in an environment where general education competes with other priorities. Therefore, in the end, courses, credits, and structures are not nearly as important as understanding how changes will benefit students.

Time Is Money

Throughout the reform process, both the committee and the administration must remain sensitive to the perspectives of the individual faculty members who will question how the new program will affect their personal allocation of time. Faculty resistance to curricular reform is often characterized as fear of change, but rational economists suggest that "opportunity cost" is the overriding issue as faculty understandably weigh the time required to develop a new course or learn new pedagogies against their current commitments. Despite the committee's best efforts to create "buy-in" by engaging faculty in the change process, the centrifugal forces of research, departmental demands, and family place real limits on the time faculty are able to reallocate.

Many campuses find "start up" funds for workshops, course releases, and summer institutes as incentives. Lacking such resources, some campuses try to strengthen their curriculum by finding faculty who are already pursuing the desired goals and connecting these islands of success to support the larger curricular reform effort. For example, the committee could identify the faculty in sociology, political science, and elsewhere who have already refined courses that utilize service-learning to advance their own curricular priorities. Using the principle "each one, teach one," the reform committee legitimizes existing innovations and fosters continuous improvement, thus reducing the need for radical reform and major investments.

The recent widespread interest in interdisciplinarity provides an excellent example of how alternative strategies for curricular implementation can amplify the impact of existing campus resources. To implement an interdisciplinary program effectively a campus must consider how broadly and deeply it wants the concept to reach into the curriculum. How many interdisciplinary courses should a student take? Will the courses cross institutional divisions as well as disciplines? Such questions guide a consideration of both the cost and the impact of change. Interdisciplinary team-teaching, for example, requires an up-front investment as faculty need release time to plan courses together and initial student loads are unlikely to replace the hours lost. The investment is recouped over time, however, through such positive effects as pedagogical innovation, cross-disciplinary research, and a greater sense of community beyond the classroom. When there are no resources to invest, the committee might locate faculty already fruitfully engaged in interdisciplinary teaching and invite them to modify the courses to fit the general education curriculum. If even that approach appears to take resources from a department, interdisciplinarity can still be activated at little cost, though in a far less robust form, by linking courses and sharing syllabi across departments.

To stimulate the kind of intellectual inventory necessary to discover where resources for reform exist, the committee and the administration need to foster active, reflective communication among faculty. Although expensive in terms of time, substantial and intellectually stimulating conversation is the least expensive stimulus for change and an essential foundation for a vital curriculum. Faculty instinctively respond to intellectual camaraderie; indeed, they complain bitterly when a deficit of intellectual exchange with faculty peers diminishes their sense of engagement with a broader academic community. Constant campus conversations about student learning can result in reformed pedagogical practices and more intentional curricula without changing requirements, lowering class sizes, or inventing new courses.

During bleak fiscal times, faculty must fight off malaise and remind themselves that they still control the quality of classroom engagement. Good teachers are constantly engaged in pedagogical self-reflection, refining assignment sequences, and rethinking the fundamental practices of their teaching. A good administrator fosters that endemic process by encouraging and connecting faculty and thus optimizing the effect of good teaching by multiplying it across the curriculum to create a shared sense of purpose.

What Money Can't Buy

Even if a campus had all the resources it needed to create its ideal program, student resistance would still present an imposing obstacle. Students tend to view general education programs as an incoherent set of required courses of little relevance to their career interests. They readily explain that they do not work as hard in classes they don't like, and they develop resentment if they get lower grades in courses that they feel do not play to their strengths. The psychological cost of student resistance also takes a toll on faculty who feel they are dragging along students whose only goal is "to get it out of the way." The real dollar cost to the institution is apparent when students repeat a failed course or take their tuition dollars to the local community college to fulfill a dreaded requirement.

Even more alarming is the data that full-time students expect to spend little more than twenty hours a week on academics--including class and study time. The national report Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as Nation Goes to College (AAC&U ) describes the multiple challenges of limited time on task, underprepared students, decreased funding, and the misalignment of high school exit requirements and college expectations. As campuses make learning-centered reforms a priority, general education programs focus not just on significant content and important academic skills but also on how to help students develop a love of lifelong learning and the sense of social responsibility essential to participate effectively in a complex world. Reform efforts must address the gap between ideal outcomes of a general education program and the reality of the needs and behaviors of the students.

What students ask for in general education--passion, enthusiasm, and interest on the part of faculty--does not cost money. Even though students focus primarily on their job prospects and often claim internships are more important than art history, they do concede that the breadth of the general education program, when taught well, is good for them. But fostering intentional learning requires intentional pedagogy. Faculty who teach in general education must constantly renew for themselves the vital principles that animate their teaching in the context of the curriculum. Faculty must conduct with their students the same patient and painstaking discussion they have with other faculty to establish shared principles, communicate course design, and develop interdisciplinary connections with other courses rather than teach only through the lens of their own discipline. Students also need to understand their own role in constructing a compelling whole out of their education, rather than drifting through a fragmented experience. In this way, the most important resources a campus has--student time and energy--are used well.

Resolving the Tension

Too often, as a campus struggles with two co-existing issues--insufficient resources and lack of clarity in how best to accomplish a fundamental mission--discussions of finances drown out conversations about learning. Consequently, a clear-eyed assessment of existing resources--time, energy, commitment, ideas, and budget--and a sustained discussion of common goals are necessary precursors to ensuring that the reform effort will result in an engaged community and empowered students. Administrators play an essential but delicate role in helping faculty maintain their ideals, understand fiscal realities, and test ideas against realistic resource needs. At the same time, faculty maintain their ownership of the curriculum through willing investment in the intellectual and fiscal health of the institution. In the end, curricular reform is about changing attitudes as much as it is about changing courses. Although a realistic consideration of resource limitations is a necessary context for curricular decision-making, ultimately, the highest cost in curricular reform is the opportunity an institution misses when it loses track of its ideals. n


Association of American Colleges and Universities. Greater expectations : A new vision for learning as a nation goes to college. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Eckel, Peter, Madeleine Green, Barbara Hill, and William Mallon. Taking charge of change: A primer for colleges and universities. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.

Ferren, Ann S. and Rick Slavings. Investing in quality: Tools for improving curricular efficiency. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Gaff, Jerry G. Avoiding the potholes: Strategies for reforming general education. Educational Record.

  1. Beautiful hawaiian woman
  2. Pixelmon reforged wiki
  3. Ruger security six serial number lookup

It’s Time to Get Rid of Distribution Requirements

It was the kind of setting you see in a movie, the sort of college campus that made you feel smarter just being there: long tree-lined walks, noble brick buildings, an ornate fountain in the distance. Everything but “Pomp and Circumstance” playing over the loudspeaker. Visiting for a day, I felt like I was part of something important: conversations about the meaning of life, experiments unlocking the mysteries of cancer, explorations that would make learning purposeful and impactful. It felt good, standing there on the quad. Like I was part of something that mattered.

I later mentioned this feeling to the university’s provost, complimenting him on the beauty of the campus, the thought they’d put into creating a setting that causes students to stand, backs a little straighter, seriousness in their eyes. He smiled and thanked me, but then frowned. “But then students walk into our gen ed, all those basic courses and s. How do they feel then?”

A great question. One answer comes in the form of a tweet a student shared with me a while back. It’s posted by “$yd,” (yes, with a dollar sign) and says:

Unpopular opinion: general education courses in college are a complete scam for your money to keep you paying for 4+ yrs. If gen ed courses weren’t a requirement, major really only require 2 yrs of classes. All of highschool (sic) was gen ed- it’s simply unnecessary.

This tweet, from , has ,likes and more than 72, retweets. That’s a lot of attention for social media discussing education. “Unpopular”? Hardly.

Here’s the thing: architects and designers will tell you that when creating a space, they’re thinking very deliberately about how that space constructs its occupants. Step into the Google offices in Dublin, and you enter a colorful, energetic atmosphere full of raw energy. You feel invigorated and irreverent. There are no rules, this space says. Play. Create.

Step into St. Paul’s in London, and you feel simultaneously humbled and transcendent. Cathedrals are grand for a reason: you’re meant to feel small, insignificant, even. But beneath that there’s also this sense of being drawn upward, of a greater purpose, something larger than the daily grind, something transcendent that’s inviting you to join. Not unlike the college campus I mentioned.

Too often, though, our general education curricula don’t match our architectural rhetoric, particularly when those curricula are structured around a distributional model where students take two of this, two of that and two of the next thing. Rather than inviting students to feel capable, energized and part of something meaningful, we hand them a checklist that all but says, “You’re stupid. You need the basics. Again.”

To be clear here, I’m not arguing that our students always enter the university with adequate academic preparation. Many of them don’t. The reasons for this are many and varied and not really the point of this essay, but they include an overdependence on standardized testing that places an emphasis on content memorization over meaningful application of that content in complex contexts.

My point, though, is that even if our students come in needing “some additional help,” we don’t do them -- or ourselves -- any favors by packaging their learning and development in a way that constructs them as uninterested, unintellectual and incapable. And at many institutions -- even many very good institutions -- it’s hard to argue against $yd’s logic: this curriculum, these courses -- they feel like high school.

Consequently, why are we surprised when students who enter our classrooms seem put-off, slightly offended? They spent all that time in high school writing papers, taking tests, trying to get good grades. They studied for the SAT, visited colleges, wrote application essays, asked their teachers for letters of recommendation. They spent months checking their email, nervous every time they got online. Sure, they’re young and they probably spend too much time on weekends doing things their parents would prefer they didn’t. But deep down, there’s a part of every student that wants to be challenged, that wants to go home and brag about this one professor or this one class or this one project that kicked their butt, that was so hard -- but that somehow they got through it.

Put another way, most students want, in the language of the cathedral, to transcend. But what they get, too often, are classes that construct them as receptacles for content distributed in mass-produced textbooks, as incapable of taking on the messy intellectual and practical problems that dominate our world. They’re told these are classes to “get out of the way,” to “get through,” to “just survive.” As Eric Amsel, a professor of psychology at Weber State University and former Utah Professor of the Year, once told me, when students take a “checked-box” approach to general education, we’re the ones who put them there. That’s the room we built for them. Why then, are we so surprised when they respond accordingly?

Here's an experiment: google “gen ed requirements state university” and click “image.” What you’ll see is table after table and list after list of course after course that can be taken to “fulfill” a “requirement.” Often, a particular curricular expectation can be met via a dozen different options. One requirement for philosophical thinking I encountered offered 12 different topics appropriate for meeting the requirement goals, including human nature, scientific reasoning, theories of cognition, social obligations and constraints, and applied ethics. Just to be clear: that list of 12 doesn’t cover the courses that count for this requirement, only the topics.Assuming there are at least a dozen courses that address each of those broad topics, we’re talking about an explosive list of options -- most science classes, for instance, include scientific reasoning, and I’ve yet to teach a literature course that doesn’t address social obligation, human nature and ethics.

I like philosophical thinking. I think we need more of it in our educational systems. But what does it mean when even the philosophy requirement says more about what fulfills the requirement than about why?What does that tell students about how we view them? About how these requirements relate (or don’t) to their lives? And what does it tell them about us? Because as much as this curricular rhetoric is constructing them, it’s also constructing faculty members and administrators. What does it say about who we are, about what we believe, about what we value, about what drives us?

Sure, sometimes it simply says, "These topics matter": you need to understand how science works. There’s a logic to mathematics that, if you can capture it, won’t ever abandon you. The abstract thinking skills you learn exploring art and philosophy is going to be valuable no matter what you do after you graduate.

But other times? Well, Cathy N. Davidson points out that our siloed structuring of the university into divisions and departments is essentially a remnant of industrial-era models for efficient factories. The distributional approach, where every division, every department, has requirements, is essentially a consequence of that history. After college, graduates will take jobs that blur sociology, literary studies, physics and business psychology on a daily basis. But in the academy? We’re still structured around SOCI, LITS, PHYS and BUAD.

Implicit within all of this is a dynamic we’d generally prefer to avoid acknowledging: in many ways, the distributional model continues because it provides job security. As long as students are required to take courses in all three divisions (social sciences, STEM, arts and humanities), all three divisions will remain viable.

Protecting our Turf

This is not, for what it’s worth, an argument about the value or lack of value of one division or another. As I’ve already pointed out, every field has value, particularly for students who are only beginning their journey into the world and never know where they’re going to find themselves. No, my point is that too often all of us in the academy let our concern for protecting our turf get in the way of smart thinking about how we construct general education -- and, consequently, how we construct our students. I’ve worked with dozens of campuses engaged in curricular revision. I can’t tell you the number of times the drive in from the airport has included conversations along the lines of “The X department is worried that if we change the curriculum, they’ll lose students.”

What’s startling about this kind of thinking is how simplistic the math is: the only way to get people into my classroom is to require my courses? The only place in the curriculum for the kinds of thinking that occur in my field are courses in the major? First, this logic undermines the relevance of our work. If the ways of thinking taught in my field are only relevant in my field (and I don’t think it is, but bear with me here) then, logically, requiring that those ways of thinking be taught to everyone doesn’t make sense. Second, this kind of turf math makes us blind to curricular models that both broadcast the relevance of our fields and construct our students in ways that allow them to understand their greatest capabilities.

Consider, for instance, the gen ed requirements at Worcester Polytechnic: the first-year experience involves a team-taught course focusing on complex problems like sustainability, epidemics, food and energy. Students also participate in an “interactive qualifying project,” a real-world problem (some from overseas) that those from different fields work in small cohorts to solve, supervised by a professor. Senior year, students participate in “major qualifying projects,” also focusing on real-world problems, also overseen by a faculty member, also working in small groups -- though generally drawing from just a single field. Besides some initial requirements in the humanities (arguably necessary at an engineering school), there is no distributional component to the curricula; the various divisions, their methods, contents and values, are woven into the larger projects, many of which are based on high-impact practices. Distribution exists, yes, but it doesn’t drive the model.

Instead, from the moment students walk into their first-year dorms, they step into a curriculum that constructs them as capable of solving grand problems, real problems, complex problems, problems where the answers aren’t at the back of the book. By their sophomore year, students are actually solving some of those problems, drawing from a variety of fields, sometimes in foreign settings. By their senior year, the kind of complex, collaborative, interdisciplinary thinking necessary to make the world a better place is almost old hat.

And the faculty of the university put the students there, constructing them as trustworthy, responsible, serious and capable of great leadership.

Or consider Wagner College, where students are required to participate in three learning communities -- one during the first year, one during the last year and one somewhere in between. Each learning community has an experiential component, essentially using New York City as a real-time lab. Students still take courses from a variety of fields, but importantly, those courses are embedded in larger, more meaningful conversations. And so are the students.

In contrast to distribution models, which often allow a department a single contact point in the curriculum (take math to fulfill the math requirement; take politics to fulfill the social science requirement), these models allow multiple contacts: a student might encounter, say, psychology, as part of a first-year learning community, a sophomore community-based course or a senior capstone project. Further, they encounter psychology at a moment when its value becomes self-evident: you’re not learning this content because it’s a box you need to check; you’re learning it because it’s necessary to this broader, meaningful discussion.

All of which is difficult for faculty members to see when we’re blinded by turf concerns. Fair enough. No one wants to feel dismissed in curricular debates. But perhaps it’s time to move beyond first-glance reactions and explore curricular reform as a serious intellectual question that deserves the same attention we afford our scholarly research.

The world’s a pretty messed-up place. Fixing that -- or even just slowing the damage -- is going to take more than students who’ve been drilled on the basics over and over again, in both high school and college. The basics matter. Content matters. But how this content is presented, and what students are enabled to do with this information and skills, also matters. Students need to step into the world having experienced more than siloed data regurgitation. Remediation by any other name still smells like limitation.

We need to create spaces for students to enter, spaces where they can encounter their best selves. Spaces that respect them by challenging them. Spaces that provide them with the tools that they need, and with the opportunity to invent new tools that we -- the assumedly wise professionals charged with their education -- can’t even anticipate. Spaces that acknowledge the messiness of the world and acknowledge, as well, that we see our students’ capacity to take on that mess with complex and transcendent wisdom.


Recently in an English class, we were assigned to write an argument. I chose to argue General Education requirements. Because I have a lot of passion for this topic, and because I want a lot of you to read what I have to say, I chose to share some of my basic thoughts in this week’s blog. General Education requirements in college not only take up 2 years of your time in school, they also use up a lot of your money. College is an exciting time in most students’ lives. The strenuous schedule of required gen-ed courses can add unnecessary stress to this exciting time.  For the amount of money students pay, they should be able to choose what courses they take, what are universities doing with all of this money?  I will be focusing on a few main points including: The extra cost Gen-Eds create for students, why Gen-Eds aren’t necessary for students who have already decided a major, and the time wasted spending four years in college due to Gen-Ed courses. Allow me to begin with the extra cost Gen-Eds present for students wallets.

Just imagine if two years of school could be subtracted from your bills, we’d be saving so much money in the long run. To me, there is no sense in paying for two years of classes that have absolutely nothing to do with your major. I am currently enrolled in a theatre class and a music class. My major is broadcast journalism. Taking a theatre class when I have no interest in acting doesn’t make since to me, but it fulfills one of my gen-ed requirements. Although I have learned all about acting in this class, I will likely never pursue this field, or need any of this information. I’d rather enroll in broadcasting or journalism courses because they will actually aid me in my future career.

This brings me to my next point; Gen-Eds are unnecessary for students who have chosen a major. Many people argue that Gen-Eds create more well-rounded students. I argue that the fundamental stages in a person’s life are for becoming “well rounded”, college is for getting a degree and going to work. The overall goal of college is to gain a successful career. If a journalism major wanted to spend thousands of dollars taking art and music classes, they would have chosen to be an art or music major. Isn’t it better to be an expert on one skill than to be mediocre in many?   Focusing solely on one’s major as opposed to being distracted by gen-ed courses might help students to enter the workforce more prepared for their jobs.

Many people also believe that taking Gen-Ed courses is smart because students change their majors so often. My justification is that it wouldn’t matter if a student changed their major if they were only going to school for two years because they’d be so young, they’d technically have 2 years to spare. Because a bachelor’s degree would only require two years of school, most students could graduate by the time they were twenty years old. If a twenty year old were to change their major, they could attend two more years of school in their new major and still graduate at twenty-two. The point of a two-year bachelor degree program would be to give students who are sure on their major a head start on their chosen career.

My final reason for why Gen-Eds shouldn’t be required is that they are a waste of time. As I mentioned before, why spend four years in college when your actual major only takes two? If student could finish school in two years, (obviously this excludes doctors, lawyers, etc.) they could get two years of work under their belt.  That’s two years of making money instead of spending thousands on school. In another circumstance, if a student wanted to take a couple years after high school to work and save for college they would be able to without much set back.

I can see that Gen-Eds could be useful to students who don’t already know their major. Gen-Eds are a great source for students to explore different fields of study and to find out what interests them. Gen-Eds can also benefit students in their major later on by creating a foundation that’s easier to build on. While Gen-Eds do have their benefits, I find that the consequences of money and time outweigh those benefits. High school was a great foundation for college; I now want to move past high school and focus on my career. My hope is that enough of you will agree with me and that our numbers could make a difference. I’m assuming that all of you believe in and value higher education. I’m assuming that you all wish that you could save thousands of dollars and still achieve your bachelor’s degree. If my assumptions are correct, we need to stand together and make a change.

-Speedy G.

I&#;m reading Microsoft Office

By : Kristin Rogers Tags: college classesdebtgeneral educationrequirementssave moneytuition

Against general education argument

excess credit hoursexcess credit hours

Undergraduate students are taking too many classes. That may sound like a nice problem to have: Why not learn more than you have to? But consider that the average graduate of a four-year college takes the equivalent of a full extra semester of classes, or an additional 12 to 15 credits, paying thousands of dollars of extra tuition, and for many, incurring debt to do it.

The problem is far more pronounced for community college students, who make up 40 percent of all undergraduate students in the United States. Students who obtain a two-year associate’s degree typically complete a whopping 22 excess credits, according to a July report by Complete College America, an advocacy group that tracks these figures. That’s three-quarters of an entire academic year on top of the two-year program. For part-time students, that’s years of needless courses.

“It really is an epidemic,” said Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center of Teachers College Columbia University. “Students are entering community colleges to save money, but if you end up taking excess credits, you’re not really saving money.”

Jenkins plans to release a working paper next month (October ) showing that community college students in one state who transfer to four-year schools within their state end up with 29 excess credits. It was 27 credits in another state that Jenkins studied.

Some students, of course, efficiently earn their associate’s degrees by taking only what they need, typically 60 credits. But just as many are on the other end of the spectrum, taking over credits to finish.

That’s time and money that low-income working students don’t have. Many are on federal financial aid, making it a burden on taxpayers as well.  Taxpayers incur additional costs because 60 percent of community college budgets are subsidized by state and local governments. One study by the Greater Texas Foundation found that excess credits cost students and taxpayers $ million annually in that state.

The reasons students take so many unnecessary courses vary. In addition to earning 60 credits overall, community college students need to fulfill certain course requirements, some set by the college and others set by academic departments for each major. It’s natural for college students to discover their interests and change majors. When they start something new, there are new required classes and some of the classes they’ve already taken aren’t needed for graduation.

Jenkins says that many community college students arrive undecided. College advisers often suggest they take general education courses, but that doesn’t help them explore which subjects to major in. “Students take courses that are available, not according to a plan,” said Jenkins. “Most students don’t have a plan.”

Another reason for excess credits has to do with hanging onto financial aid. A required course might be scheduled when a student is working or doesn’t have childcare. So he has to wait until the course timing fits his own schedule. For students who work full time, the wait for an evening or weekend class can be long. However, financial aid rules require students to maintain a certain course load. So the student is forced to take an unnecessary class or two to maintain eligibility. This is a growing problem on many campuses, as colleges are faced with declining enrollments and are reducing the number of sections offered of each class.

Selective programs have the unintended consequence of creating streams of excess credits. For example, it can be competitive to get into a nursing program. Prospective students load up on prerequisites, such as human anatomy, in hopes of being accepted into a nursing program. Many are never admitted, but have racked up courses that they can’t apply toward their eventual majors.

For community college students who want to transfer to four-year institutions (80 percent of community college students begin their academic careers with that intention), it’s often difficult to transfer credits. Some are not accepted, others are not the exact courses that an academic department requires. For example, a community college calculus course may not fulfill the math requirement for a four-year business degree.

Complete College America looked to see if there were differences by race or income, and found that excess credits are a problem that everyone faces. Asians rack up slightly more excess credits (26 on average) at the end of their two-year degrees, but they also have the highest graduation rates. Hispanic graduates with two-year degrees had the fewest excess credits (19 on average). Pell Grant recipients had an average of 22 excess credits, highlighting the federal subsidy of needless courses.

Many community college administrators are hoping that prescribing specific course schedules, known as “pathways”, will cut down on excess credits. But more good ideas are needed.

The Hechinger Report provides in-depth, fact-based, unbiased reporting on education that is free to all readers. But that doesn't mean it's free to produce. Our work keeps educators and the public informed about pressing issues at schools and on campuses throughout the country. We tell the whole story, even when the details are inconvenient. Help us keep doing that.

Join us today.

Jill Barshay writes the weekly “Proof Points” column about education research and data, covering a range of topics from early childhood to higher education. She taught algebra to ninth-graders for More by Jill Barshay

Every Argument Against Veganism - Ed Winters - TEDxBathUniversity

The Failure of General Education

This school year Harvard College completed its six-year transition to the new Program in General Education. For all undergraduate students, the Gen Ed program requires completion of a course in each of eight categories: “Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding,” “Culture and Belief,” “Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning,” “Ethical Reasoning,” “Science of Living Systems,” “Science of the Physical Universe,” “Societies of the World,” and “United States in the World.” It also requires that one of these courses engage with the study of the past. The aim of the program is to expose students to a “broad range of topics and approaches” and to connect a student’s education to “life beyond college.” Effectively, General Education is what makes Harvard a liberal arts college.

Unfortunately, the program is not succeeding in its goals. The predominant sign of this failure is the student attitude toward Gen Ed classes. Many empirical reasoning and science classes are regarded as intellectually insubstantial and are chosen solely for this reason. Humanities courses are likewise scouted for easy grading and little work. Across the board, Gen Eds are regarded as less important than concentration or elective classes. In many cases a culture develops of not doing readings and paying little attention in class. These lectures are the first to be skipped, often with couched pride after “still getting an A.” The general attitude is not of becoming educated, but simply of fulfilling requirements as efficiently as possible.

This problem goes beyond the system or implementation of the Gen Ed ideal. It is fundamentally rooted in the conflicting missions of the student body and the College. While Gen Ed aims to provide a broad and liberal education, a consumerist reality means students have an eye on attaining ends. This is especially true at a school that only accepts extremely high-achieving applicants. Students take classes with their future in mind: getting into graduate school or medical school, acquiring useful skills, fostering a resume.

If this student attitude is a modern phenomenon, it is a result of social change and transition. The importance of broad education is rooted in class traditions that once demanded students to develop a breadth of diverse knowledge. Today, the learning process is much more compartmentalized. Literature and music can be irrelevant in the life of a engineer. It is a trope that humanities majors pride themselves on their inability to perform basic science and math.

This is not to say that General Education classes never succeed. Many faculty members, inspired by the opportunity to share knowledge with a broad range of students, offer phenomenal courses through the Gen Ed program. Many students find fascination and enlightenment in fields outside their concentration. Yet there is no faith in the system.  General Education appeals to a “spirit of free inquiry undertaken without concern for topical relevance or vocational utility” and “an opportunity to learn and reflect in an environment free from most of the constraints on time and energy that operate in the rest of life.” These ideals are simply not present among the current student body.

Harvard College needs to reconsider and restructure its curriculum to provide education for a post-modern age. If it is to fulfill the needs of the students it accepts, the General Education requirement should be removed. The classes themselves should stay, but the compulsion to undertake the process of erudition for the sake of completing requirements fuels reluctance and apathy towards many Gen Ed classes. If the College wishes to effectively maintain a mandatory liberal arts curriculum it must find a way to recreate the incentive structure behind liberal arts classes by fostering an attitude toward education in line with General Education ideals. Both students and the College should be encouraged to think critically about the meaning and purpose of a so-called “general education” at Harvard.

Benjamin M. Woo ’13 is a cognitive science and music concentrator in Adams House.


Similar news:

Written by Mike Amato•February 18, • pm•Opinions• One Comment

Bust of Leonardo Da Vinci in Rome, Italy. Photo courtesy of Blaz Erzetic/Unsplash.

Historically, a liberal arts college is built upon crucial differences between itself and polytechnic or trade schools that prepare students for specific jobs. The liberal arts provide an education based on a broad variety of topics that allow career mobility. A degree from such an institution yields much more than a diploma: it shows experience in fields other than the major specified with the degree. This is what makes liberal arts schools such as Connecticut College so great.  They give opportunities that one could not easily find at Harley Davidson Mechanical School.

However, many of these schools’ missions are often bogged down by General Education requirements. Mandating students to take classes in specific disciplines curtails the freedoms that are supposedly inherent to a liberal arts education. While there are benefits to such a system, I believe it is flawed and calls for immediate abolition.

Leonardo Da Vinci was a true Renaissance man; he was educated in everything from medicine to theology. He was most definitely one of the smartest men in our history. His goal to know a little bit about everything seems to be what our General Education requirements are founded on. For him, there was no real need to narrowly study one specific discipline.

As we move ahead in history, closer to our own time, we notice a shift in this broad education to a much more focused approach. Take for example Einstein, who studied at Zurich Polytechnic Institute with a focus in math and physics. In the same vein, colleges and universities model their systems to culminate in a major or minor. The intention of this system is for students to become experts in their specific fields. It simply makes more sense: when would doctors need to know Shakespeare?

Of course, our General Education requirements at Conn are not long, arduous studies. We may have to take a couple classes outside of our comfort zones and we deal with it. But that does not mean that we should be forced to put up with it. We have all heard the story of a student taking a class that they never would have taken without being pressed by Gen Ed requirements, falling in love with the area of study and deciding to major in the subject. I do not doubt the validity of these stories, but it is highly unlikely for the majority of students. I am of the opinion that a student would not take a class far outside of his or her comfort zone if given a choice. If mandated to do so by General Education requirements, they will take the easiest, safest course possible. This explains the popularity of the Logic class in the philosophy department. It fulfills the math requirement for students that prefer the humanities. I have never heard of an English major who took Calculus over any softer math option when needed.

Overall, General Education requirements are an unnecessary burden on our school’s students. Finishing that last, pesky Gen Ed is something students celebrate. Yes, exploring other fields might give them valuable insight into their own areas of specialty. However, Gen Eds are only piling extra work on students who would rather be focusing on what they can learn within their chosen major. This is also a burden on our professors, who likely find it challenging to teach students who would rather not be there. The classes that look boring or monotonous in the course catalog typically end up that way because they are full of students who are there only because it is required of them. More importantly, we are forgetting that students have already gotten a “general education”. It’s called high school: you know, the place where they make you take math, science, English and history no matter what.

Based on how difficult it is to get into Conn in the first place, it should be generally assumed that we all did fairly well in these courses.  I am no math fan, but I did take AP Calculus. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to prove that I could hold my own alongside students who actually like math. We do not come to college to broaden our knowledge of everything, even if this is a nice thing to do. College is for gaining real life experience, growth and interest in something that matters to us. Though General Education requirements may help us find that passion, it is not always the case.

Perhaps a compromise can be reached on General Education requirements. It is necessary to create an education system that is not tied up with bureaucratic tape and erroneous requirements.  Other top institutions such as Brown and Amherst have already successfully turned to a Gen Ed-free model. A broad approach to learning is a good approach but directives like General Education classes are not the way to go about it. The administration could pursue offering more diverse classes within a major or classes in one department taught by the professor of another. I am listing these off the top of my head and they already seem like better ideas. Let’s take a democratic approach and abolish them altogether. •

(Visited 4, times, 1 visits today)

[mc4wp_form id=""]

826 827 828 829 830