General education – may I ask what the point is?
In my short lifetime, I have taken gen ed classes. I enjoyed them, for the most part. But, if I were to go to college, would I particularly like to spend two of my four years studying requirements that 85% of the time have absolutely no relevancy to my chosen major? Not really.
However, colleges, and many people who attend them, seem to consider gen eds worthwhile, correct? Why is this, I wonder?
Some of the justifications I hear most often:
1. Gen eds prepare you for the upper-level courses in your chosen major
2. Gen eds help you figure out what you might like to major in
3. Gen eds give you a well-rounded education by exposing you to subjects you might not have had an opportunity to learn about otherwise
I would like to take this blog entry to question these beliefs which are strongly held by a great number of people. And if, at the end of this entry, you have any more thoughts on Gen eds, please let me know what they are; and I would love to do a second post addressing these things.
Gen eds prepare you for the upper-level courses in your chosen major.
I can see one big flaw in this argument – shouldn’t the skills for your chosen major be known already at the beginning of college? Why must essential things like writing a paper or doing math be re-learned or learned at this great and elite “college level”, when the average person already spent 12 years and the majority of every day in an institution where such “special skills” could and should have already been taught?
(And, if a person was homeschooled: I do believe , if college was in the agenda, that person is equally capable of learning the skills necessary for writing a college paper and/or doing college math on their own, or with the guidance of outside classes.)
Gen eds help you figure out what you might like to major in.
Surely there is nothing wrong with this, right? Well…
This goes back to something I’ve said a number of times: why would a person go to college if he or she does not know what you want to major in? What is the point? They are doing nobody a favor by spending tons of their money (well, except those who receive the money, of course) while aimlessly meandering about the schoolwork, head down, not having enough time to even think about what they want out of life.
Need anything else be said on that?
Gen eds give you a well-rounded education by exposing you to subjects you might not have had an opportunity to learn about otherwise.
And why not?
For one, the most obvious cause – being stuck in college for four years. I apologize if I offend anyone with my frankness.
I would just like to ask: how does anybody know that a person would not be exposed or be self-motivated to study new and different subjects in-depth? I simply feel like this is a weak argument for gen ed. Life is full of inspiration for new interests, and tools and opportunities to pursue those interests. That is what is the primary function of an autodidact, and (I hope) of adults as they go through their normal lives… “real life.”
Being inspired and pursuing inspiration made up my “schooling” as a homeschooler. I really needed no such general education in order to broaden my horizons; in fact, now I get a little frustrated occasionally, as I feel my horizons are a little too broad at this point in my life!
Here are a few examples:
1. I was inspired to write because of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She wrote the Little House books, incase anybody was a little clueless about that. I wanted to be her – I wanted to write, and tell stories, and also have a record of my life that someone would find after I died and turn into a book series and a television show starring Melissa Gilbert. I’ve been writing ever since I was able to form words on the paper, and in my teenage years I have conducted numerous studies of writing and still continue to write (hence, largely, this blog).
2. I was inspired by coming across the television show “The Dog Whisperer” at one point, seeing how Cesar Millan formed a pack of dogs using his knowledge of the origins of canine behavior. At first I was just interested in dogs, but that branched off into a very large obsession with wolves. I have now read extensively about them, and have two internships planned for the near future at a couple of fantastic wolf refuges.
3. Probably the biggest jump I made from the point of being inspired till the peak of intense study is exercise science. It all started while watching the Winter Olympics in February 2006. Developing a slight crush on figure skater Johnny Weir, I watched all his events; and, after the Olympics, started to watch figure skating more. There were little blips on the skaters during these events, in which they often talked about the training and cross training they put into their sports. I had just started swimming a few months before, and I had a brainstorm that I could cross train myself to become a better swimmer. This grew into watching Fit TV very frequently, along with getting many exercise science, workout, nutrition, etc., books from the library. While I don’t study it as intensely as I did at that certain point of my life, the knowledge continues to carry over into whatever I am doing, and I have not completely ruled out becoming a personal trainer one of these days.
And those are just a few examples from my own short life so far.
Perhaps now I have you asking, “what IS the point of Gen eds?” along with me.
But, if I don’t, please tell me: why are Gen eds important? What purpose, in the long run, do they hold? Wouldn’t you rather have the extra time to “study” other interests on your own than be forced to take two years full of certain types of classes, taught in a certain kind of way? Why can’t I just go to a university, concentrate on my major, and come out with a piece of paper for that?