Are GE classes really worth it?

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by Erik Sena, Staff Columnist

and Sabrina Shahawi, Staff Columnist 

General education classes are a traditional part of an overall college education. However, do these courses serve a purpose in providing a broad education or do they take time and money away from students who are moving toward a specific career path? The Aztec’s columnists battle it out below.

Sabrina Shahawi: The primary service of general education is to function as a foundation for useful life knowledge.

The reason for going to college is to learn all the information necessary to be a well-rounded and successful person in the real world.  Many may argue that the reason for going to college is to learn the conventional skills required for their major or minor. However, to fully understand your major or minor, you must already have a general knowledge set to fall back on.

Typically in college, students are required to take more general education classes than major classes. So how could anyone argue that general education classes are redundant? Many students feel they are a waste of time because they took the same courses in high school. However, what they highly overlook is that most high school students have a much lower maturity level than college students and high school courses are the simplified version of college courses.

Erik Sena: While general education classes are useful for broadening students’ minds, they also teach you things you can easily learn outside of college—if not in high school, then on your own time.

General education classes do not help supplement information learned in a student’s major courses, but instead hinder one’s ability to graduate in a timely manner.

What can I learn from an astrophysics class that I can apply to my potential career in public relations? Absolutely nothing.

The information I learn in irrelevant general education classes will do nothing to help further my understanding of my career. When will I ever have to use the Pythagorean Theorem as a public relations professional? The knowledge attained in general education classes will likely be forgotten in a few years, so what’s the use? There is a widely popular theory that repetition reinforces memory. I probably won’t continue studying oceanography or any of the other seemingly pointless classes I have been required to take, so all the time and effort put into learning that information will eventually go to waste after graduation.

Furthermore, we as students are wasting thousands of dollars a year on these unnecessary courses. Instead, if we eliminated general education classes, we would be saving not only years of schooling, but valuable money in the process.

SS: Erik brought up a great point. When will he ever have to use the Pythagorean theorem when pitching a topic for a newspaper, because his major is public relations? Well, when pitching topics to a newspaper or writing a press release, a broad range of topics are up for discussion. For different sections of publications, the topic of math may come up and his knowledge about the Pythagorean Theorem may give him an advantage above those who know absolutely nothing about it. Yes, having to take general education courses may be costly, but they are absolutely worth it. College is about the experience, the random knowledge obtained from different courses and the capability for students to go out into the real world and be effective and successful citizens. Many students pay for college themselves and learn an appreciation for their education and gain responsibility by doing so.  In addition, if students could get through college faster, they wouldn’t be granted the necessary time to mature before getting a real job and living on their own.

ES: Are general education classes really worth the cost? If they were no longer required, students would be saving tons of money that could be put to better use elsewhere. These classes are doing nothing but increasing one of the most prevalent problems among students—debt.

The money spent on textbooks and tuition for those classes would benefit students more if it were saved. It’s hard enough paying for major classes by themselves, but paying for additional classes is an even greater burden. Two years isn’t much shorter than four years. Students don’t need those extra two years to develop. If students aren’t mature and prepared for the “real world” by the time they enter college, they should be.

General education classes hinder students from entering the real world right away and stifle the potential of those students by overwhelming them with useless information that they will likely never use again in their lives.

SS: General education classes provide knowledge that is absolutely essential for a well-rounded person. When students graduate from college and enter the workforce they are expected to know information about a wide range of topics­–not just information covered by their major classes. For example, this semester I am taking my general education life science course and I chose biology. My major is journalism and although many may argue that biology isn’t necessary for a journalistic career, I disagree. Biology is teaching me many things about the human body and the way of life that could be useful for potential stories I will write in the future. In addition, the knowledge learned from a general biology course is information that every person should know. People should know what proteins, carbohydrates and lipids do. It’s general knowledge, learned from general education courses that gives people the credibility they need so that employers want to hire them and know they will succeed as their employees. No one should be a one-trick pony.

ES: General education courses are not essential for becoming a well-rounded person.

Leonardo Da Vinci, arguably one of the most versatile individuals of all time, was largely self-taught and never had a formal education. Even so, he is now known as one of the most brilliant minds of our time, no thanks to general education courses.

College teaches specialization. To succeed in life, you don’t need to know everything; all you really need is a general knowledge of many things, which is what grade school provides to students.

You don’t need school or much less general education classes if you indeed have a deep passion for learning. Want to learn about the human body? Go to the library and pick up a few books. Better yet, try this relatively newfangled resource called the Internet.

With a world of resources at your fingertips, general education classes are essentially obsolete. Everything you need to know can be learned for free or at least much cheaper than the costs of college courses.

Without general education classes, we would have more time to devote to more important activities, such as internships, volunteer work and self-learning—things that would actually enhance your mental acuity and quality of life. Unlike general education classes, these experiences would give you the hands-on skills you need to become a more competent, independent and professional graduate as you embark on your post-college journey.

 

Photo by Chelsea Massey.

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