General education courses could use some work

Biola 2013 graduate Tabitha Coe fills out a course evaluation for Philosophy of Aesthetics during her undergrad. Stefan Carlson questions if BIola’s GenEd classes are efficient in complimenting student’s other studies. | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES

When I hear people talking about their GenEd experience, sometimes they talk about beneficial new perspectives and insights, but I often hear them referred to as irrelevant hoops that must be jumped through in order to graduate.

Getting your money’s worth

If you take a look at your tuition costs, you will probably find that your GE classes are worth about $40,000. I believe general education has a valuable place in our undergraduate experience, but if we are spending that much money on these classes, we better be certain our money is well-spent.

The GE requirement is one of the characteristics that makes Biola what it is: a liberal arts university. According to “The Liberal Arts Education for the Global Society” by Carol Baker, the idea of a liberal arts education originated in ancient Greece. Such an education was comprised of rhetoric, logic and grammar and was intended to equip students to be active participants in society. Biola’s intention with the general education requirement is similar.

“These [general education] classes will ensure a robust academic experience and lay the groundwork for your major and biblical studies,” is the purpose Biola has expressed on their website for general education requirements.

Assessing GE classes

If you are like me, your GE experience probably feels like it’s all over the board; some classes are excellent and others feeling like you’re back in high school. What’s the difference? I believe the value of a general education class can be assessed by asking two questions which emerge from Biola’s vision for general education and from the Greeks’ vision for liberal arts.

The first question is: Does the class lay the groundwork for students in their field of study and in biblical studies?

The second question is: Does the class equip students with the skills and perspectives required in order to be virtuous, knowledgeable and articulate participants in our society?

Based on my own experience, I would say some GE classes are definitely accomplishing these two things, but not all of them do. All GE classes ought to compliment our other studies, preparing us to thrive as spiritual leaders, professionals and participants in our culture. I have no idea what direction Biola administration plans to take general education classes, but it is a conversation that needs to be had. I hope GE classes will become increasingly effective in building our capacity to make kingdom contributions in the sphere God calls us to.

Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. Disatisfied

    Agreed. The GE courses here are a mixture of pretty good and garbage. February 20, 2014

  2. David W

    I hate to play this card, but I honestly think programs like Torrey and Iris are the answer to this problem. I have had the incredible blessing to be a part of both, and I consistently feel that the price of my Biola tuition has been worth it for my general education experience alone. Torrey’s academic environment and aesthetic isn’t for everyone, but Iris, I believe, can be. The Iris program is challenging, rewarding, integrative, and innovative. It teaches students how to be better thinkers and writers and how to see the world from others’ perspectives. I truly believe it “equips students with the skills and perspectives required in order to be virtuous, knowledgeable and articulate participants in our society” while giving them a solid biblical foundation. February 21, 2014

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