Just say no to gen eds

Just say no to gen eds

Maggie Duly

Pursuing a degree is an opportunity to master a certain skill set or to prepare for a future profession. Students enroll in classes that are designed for each individual curriculum, and that helps to explore interests and passions of their respective fields. 

I pose the question: Why do we need to fulfill general education courses? Why do we have to waste time, money and energy completing courses that we aren’t interested in to fill out a checklist? A lot of the time these required categories have nothing to do with a student’s major. 

The easy PR response to my question would be that most four year universities pride themselves on being liberal arts schools where a well-rounded undergraduate education is crucial. I think I’m rounded enough. 

It is understandable that students should have a well-rounded education before they graduate, but it is arguable that many college students have gained their general education from high school. I took American History, World Literature and I know “Romeo and Juliet” so well I could star in a one women show. Or for non-traditional-aged students, life experiences can substitute some of these general classes as well. 

General education classes take up 30 to 40 credits at NMU which can take up to half, or the majority of, a student’s first two years in college. Some students declare a major then spend all their time completing general education courses that by the time they take classes required for their major, it gets to be too late to switch majors if necessary. 

General education courses are a waste of time and money that would be better spent trying to better discover a student’s interests. A large quantity of material taught in these courses is already familiar to students from high school studies.

As a freshman, these introductory courses can be useful to those who are undecided on what they’d like to study. However, it would be even more beneficial to allow students to take introductory courses that appeal to them, but may not be offered on the general education bulletin. For example, introduction to marketing, public relations, journalism, graphic design, photography, etc. are all courses that would be beneficial as general education classes. 

Who is gaining from the structure of general education? The university. Most universities are at fault for creating a checklist that is only payable in checks. We already spend enough money paying for courses and materials that are useful to our degrees, and paying to live at the university because we have to. So why must we spend our precious time re-learning how to write an essay or solve equations?

Advisors will often pack your whole first semester in general education required classes and you think, “Oh, this is great. I’ll learn about computer science, statistics and psychology.” I was very fortunate to have gone to high school that offered a lot of courses so I had already learned the basics of those things. As I work on my fourth semester, I’ve come to find that I don’t even need to access any of the things I learned that first semester. 

I will admit there is no even playing field in any aspect of life. To require a few general education courses is something I can get on board with. Perhaps a requirement of 12 credits would be sufficient.

Analytical thinking is also a very important thing to master, but I feel like all I do is analytically think. I’m kind of tired of over-analyzing everything that it started to enter aspects of my personal life. I also think the introductory courses of each major do a great job of incorporating this type of critical analysis.

College already costs a pretty penny that a lot of people can’t afford without scholarships and loans. Requiring unnecessary courses that take up a lot of time and prevent students from exploring other educational avenues like potential majors is simply not good for anyone. Institutions want their affiliates to be successful and get out in the real world to explore their passions and it can be hard to really get there being bogged down by requisites.