Why are we required to take classes that do not pertain to our degree? Are core curriculum classes effective or are these classes another way for colleges and Universities to receive more money? This question is asked more often as students gain interest in attending college. Having just finished high school and completing English, Math, History, and the list goes on, what would be the reason to start over? These are legitimate questions, and although I am not a fan and I feel as though these classes are redundant, the answers I found while doing my research, these classes serve a purpose. Hopefully, my research will give insight into the reasoning behind it.
The average person entering college has many emotions and those emotions range from anxiousness to anxiety, but nevertheless, they are excited to begin the learning. They take those first steps onto the campus, eager to meet friends and begin studying, so that their careers can begin. However, this is not what is going to happen during the first year. The core curriculum rears its head and delays the start of those classes that many are so ready to delve into. When a student chooses a major that they wish to pursue, they see themselves selecting classes that fall under the scope of their degree. When their plans are rerouted, they become disappointed and sometimes discouraged. Most college students believe that courses unrelated to their major are a complete waste of time and considered busy work. Their concerns are valid, but research shows that core classes are common and play more of a significant role than students are aware of.
According to the University system of Georgia “General Education courses are designed to teach diverse skills that every person should master, in order to lead a productive life, became a knowledgeable citizen and communicate ideas as a useful member of society, regardless of their chosen course of study”. Research shows that general education courses are not problems within themselves, but the lack of information given to students about why they are required to take them brings about the conversation. English, Perspectives, Psychology and College Algebra fall under Core classes or sometimes referred to as general Education courses. These classes are required to be completed and passed, which determines a student’s ability to progress to the next phase in your specific major. These specific classes as do all others, has a certain number of credits associated with them and are included in the total number needed to receive a degree.
There are different phases within the Core curriculum and those are Pure distribution, pure integrative. The Pure distribution curriculum is that of which colleges most commonly use, and that most are familiar with. These are those that schools require before a student can move forward. Requirements such as two Science, two writing and two math courses. The pure integrative curriculum puts more emphasis on how the student will be able to use this knowledge and or skills in different areas of life. There are colleges that use one of the curriculums and then there are colleges that use both within their school to give the students more of an advantage. Research shows that students respond better to the pure integrative curriculum because it is not as restrictive. It allows the students to think beyond the present and focus more on the future and how they can become a beneficial participant.
Recent studies have shown us that the majority of freshman entering college need to revisit courses they completed their last year in high school. This is not done as a form of punishment but because history has indicated that some were not correctly prepared in their Senior year of high school. Due to time constraints placed on academics in high school, the courses are generally taught but not to the point that a true foundation was built. Having the students polish up on past subjects and introduce them to new subjects, gives them the chance to use the new skills in relation to courses that pertain to their major. The process can be tedious and sometimes frustrating but when students realize that taking classes such as Psychology, economics and even Liberal Arts can assist them in other aspects of learning, it might make the process easier.
In Eliza Macknight’s explanation on why General education courses are beneficial, she states that “GenEd classes are an effective way to force students to expose themselves to subjects they might not be familiar with”. (Macknight(par.3) Being required to enroll in General education classes offers students the opportunity to tap into an area of their brain that makes them think outside the box. Not confine themselves into thinking that there is only one aspect of a certain career based on the degree they are pursuing. These classes have a increased probability of expanding their aerial view of what life has to offer. Macknight also believes that having the chance to take these courses, can assist students in uncovering or rediscovering interests that were put on hold while searching for a career path. Macknight also states that “ Gen Eds serve as a gateway to becoming a well-rounded individual and enlightened citizen”. Macknight explores the option of undeclared majors and begins the discussion on how using this time to take classes that fall under GenEd can be helpful in this instance as well. Although some students want to enter college straight out of high school, some are unsure what career they wish to pursue. Macknight suggest using this time to get your feet wet and see what subjects interest you. This statement holds truth in my opinion because being introduced to information that you may not have been privy too, can alter or even change how you see you future unfolding.
In Apurva Shrestha explanation, she argues against General Education. The issue is not whether taking these classes is right or wrong because circumstances are different. The issue becomes should it be mandatory for all students and if so, why? Apurva feels as though general education classes should not be mandatory for college students, and that they should only be available to those students wanting or based on need. By based on need meaning that maybe they did not do well on the college entrance course or for those students who feel they could benefit from a refresher course. She is also one that believes that these courses are implemented for the college and Universities financial gain. After researching, I found that many students based on a poll, had the same feelings. Shrestha’s reasoning behind this is that regardless of the type of business many view institutions for higher learning to be, it still falls under the business category, and money is needed to run a business. Shrestha makes an interesting point that challenges those who feel these classes are needed. Those who are pro general education classes state their reasons to be that taking these classes, has the ability, to develop a well- rounded student and or expose them to areas that they would not otherwise visit. Shrestha’s rebuttal is that how would an institution know who is well-rounded and who is not. How do you identify those who have been exposed to different cultures and or different environments based on a college application? This is the main reason why Shrestha feels that general classes should not be mandatory. The answer to these questions seemed to be based on assumptions and not facts.
Shrestha argues that there is a great need for many professions and prolonging careers of many just for what some see as financial gain is doing a disservice. Her hesitancy is not due to the disbelief that these classes do not enhance our society, Shrestha just has the belief that these classes should not be an intricate part of a college or Universities curriculum. College for many is already a rigorous and at times an overwhelming experience. Whether a student is pursuing an Associate or Bachelor’s degree, these years are tedious and adding classes that during many times are not necessary, just adds more stress and less time to retake if needed.
In conclusion, college is one of the biggest investments a person will make, and time is money. Yes, there may be a need and even a want by students to take advantage of these opportunities, but should every student be grouped under the same umbrella? Should those students that already have financial hardships be made to incur other expenses based on what an institution feels is appropriate? Again, I do not believe those that are against taking mandatory general education courses feel this way with malice intent. I believe that it is because they are unable to truly decipher if the reasoning behind it is really to benefit the student or institution. Unless it is based on a need or want by the student, many want to forgo sitting through these classes. I am totally for a student needing extra help, taking the necessary steps to being successful and making sure they are comfortable with the major they decide on. Not having the option to opt out may start to deter individuals from enrolling in college. They already feel as though it is a long process and now having to take classes that will not have an real bearings on whether they obtain a job or not seems irrelevant.
Apurva Shrestha & Eliza Macknight. (2018). Are general education courses necessary?. General Education systems should not be mandatory. BreezeJmu.org
Study.com. (2003-2021). What are General Education Courses?