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The Daily Wildcat

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Head to Head: Are gen eds great or just a waste?

Columnists Rhiannon Bauer and Jackson Morrison go head to head to debate whether Gen ed classes are actually valuable to a university education. 

Rhiannon Bauer: Gen eds are just great 

A full college course load is never a walk through the park. Every major comes with plenty of strenuous courses and being a student can become highly stressful and mundane very quickly.

But students can find sanctuary — or at least a slight break — in their general education classes.

These Gen ed classes are similar to high school electives. Students can choose from a variety of courses on topics outside of their majors to fulfill their Gen ed requirements. Those requirements vary a bit depending on major; for example a biology major does not have to take any natural science Gen eds since the major itself covers science extensively. But other than slight differences in requirements, students from various disciplines could be found in the same gen ed classes.

Gen eds are usually less rigorous than a student’s class in their major. Though some view this as a downside, most students generally appreciate the break from their otherwise difficult schedules. Whether it’s a matter of fewer tests or papers, less studying required, or generally simpler concepts to swallow, it’s almost a guarantee that a Gen ed course isn’t as tough as classes required for most majors.

Not only does this give students a chance to breathe, it can also help them boost or maintain their GPAs. Since these classes aren’t as difficult, it’s easier to get a good grade that balances against maybe a not-so-good grade in a class within major requirements.

Despite the potential for a GPA boost, students shouldn’t choose these classes based strictly on their difficulty, since this isn’t the only benefit to Gen ed courses. They also present a unique opportunity for students to learn about a topic of interest that doesn’t fall within their major. It can be a struggle deciding on just one field of study when you have interests in all kinds of subjects and a desire to learn about everything. Gen eds could be the only way to satisfy that desire; they provide a little taste of the topic without requiring a student to study it constantly for the entirety of their education.

By doing this, students not only get the satisfaction of learning new things, but they also become a little more well-rounded in the process. Learning about different people, cultures and perspectives on the world can better inform a student’s opinions. Taking a class on a completely new subject can also spark new interests and therefore provide great satisfaction. To testify, I was never as intrigued or as challenged to think for myself in my chemistry or calculus classes as I was in my introductory philosophy Gen ed. If it weren’t for that Gen ed requirement, I would have never ended up in the most intriguing and thought-provoking class I’ve ever taken.

And while some college kids are capable of making friends virtually anywhere, a particularly easy place to meet people is within a gen ed classroom. Other students in the same Gen ed course are likely to have common interests despite the likely difference in major. It never hurts to have all kinds of different friends, and you might just find a few good ones in your Gen ed courses.

Sure not every Gen ed is the absolute most interesting course offered at the UA, but if when selecting your schedule you choose your gen eds by keeping more than just the desire for an easy “A” in mind, the experience could be highly rewarding to both you and your GPA. 

General education requirements are arguably the most pleasant requirements to fill, since students can learn interesting things outside of their major and get a slight break from their other difficult classes, and they should thusly remain a part of our college curriculum.

Jackson Morrison: Gen eds are just a waste

General education requirements do nothing but discourage people from considering a different field of education and pad out the GPA for the general population at the UA.

According to the UA the purpose of Gen ed requirements is to help “ … students attain the fundamental skills and broad base of knowledge that all college-educated adults must have.” The current Gen ed system at the UA fails to do this.

While the goal of providing students with a general skill set to be paired with the more specialized skills they develop within their major is an admirable one, the broad selection of general education classes often leads students to choose the classes which they believe to be the easiest.

When a student works hard to earn an “A”on a difficult, major specific, class they do so because they understand there is a long term pay off for their efforts. Perhaps by studying hard now they will not have to study this information for a future class; maybe the skills they are developing will help them in the professional world and may help them secure a higher income.

For Gen ed courses, there is not a promise of long-term pay off. 

Given the overwhelming number of choices for Gen ed requirements it is unlikely that any two of your Gen ed courses will test you on the same material. It is also unlikely for those skills to be useful in a professional environment, for an engineer will not advance his career by understanding ancient Greek philosophy.

As a result, a student does not have the same motivations to seek out difficult classes and master the material as they do with their field specific classes and will instead choose the easiest ones they can find with the intention of helping their GPA.

While this practice undermines the purpose of Gen ed requirements, it does not seem inherently damaging to students. After all, in today’s society many students will continue their education past a bachelor’s degree, and a student’s GPA is often one of the key factors in getting into a graduate program. However, I believe that Gen ed requirements can actually be harmful to the general student body.

Often Gen ed classes are watered down versions of comparable major specific classes. While a slower pace is often appreciated for students looking to simply pad their GPAs, it can be excoriating for those who genuinely find the subject material interesting and were considering changing their major. 

College is a time for you to find out what to do with your life. You’ll likely be exposed to many fields you haven’t previously been exposed to and it’s likely you’ll change your major. 

However, if you are forced to take a Gen ed class which is at least tangentially related to the major you are considering, and that class is simply a tedious, slow paced, watered down version of what you would actually experience it is likely you will be completely turned off from studying a field that you may of actually loved.

Gen ed requirements ultimately do more harm than good. While the goal of creating students of the world is admirable and worth being pursued, the current Gen ed system simply causes lazy students to pad their GPA and discourages curious students from studying a field they may have enjoyed.

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