General Education classes may have a noble purpose, but in reality they’re useless for the majority of college students who have already achieved a basic proficiency in the base subjects like math, English and science in high school.
If colleges wish to keep Gen Ed courses in existence, they need to redefine them for the 20thcentury and offer courses that students may not already know, like how to file taxes, fix a toilet or sew on a button.
There are two main ideas behind Gen Ed courses. Their first goal is to ensure that everyone coming into college has a more or less equal knowledge of the core subjects. However, shouldn’t this have already been determined?
Required ACT scores and GPAs should ensure that students are up to par. If schools are still questioning the skills of new students, they should offer a way to test out of most, if not all, of the Gen Eds. Personally, I took a significantly lower level math class for my Gen Ed credit in college than I had for the last two to three years of high school, and I can very honestly say that I learned nothing useful from that class. Had I been able to test out, it wouldn’t have wasted the professor’s or my time.
Another goal of Gen Eds is to give students transferrable skills and expose them to new ideas. Bethany Johnson, who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing in 2013, is generally in favor of Gen Eds for this purpose. Looking back, she said that after taking problem solving as her math credit, she “found that way of thinking was very beneficial, but as for things like college algebra, unless you’re going into a science or a math-related field, I don’t believe it’s necessary.”
However, this doesn’t seem to be the case for many students. On countless websites asking the public if Gen Eds are necessary, an overwhelming majority say no, such as on debate.org and assorted Reddit forums. Current Morehead State University student Jay Spencer believes “they are a waste of time, a ploy to get more money out of students, and redundant since we’ve already taken 12 years of them.”
I don’t believe the idea is the problem – it’s the specifics. Many high schools, particularly in large cities, have done away with classes like home economics. I’ve met a staggering number of college students who have no idea how to balance a budget or sew on a button, and these are real life skills that we need.
Colleges need to revise the Gen Ed curriculum to have a practical application to students’ lives. Teach us how to know if chicken is thoroughly cooked and how to build a good credit score, because for a lot of students, no one else will. High schools have removed it from the curriculum, leaving students with uninvolved parents out in the dark.
We already know how to multiply and write in MLA style. We need to know what to do when the toilet overflows.