General Education Classes
A living nightmare for some and the key to success for others
Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States once said “education is the key of success.” Education is one of the most important things that a human being can achieve, and without it, it is really hard to survive properly in this world where in order to live decently we need to have jobs. We spend so many years studying in order to succeed in life. Some of us want to be doctors, engineers, writers, or politicians. If we do not study, we are not going to be able to learn what we need to become one of them. Elementary and high school are the first steps of education. Here we are taught how to learn, how to study, how to write, how to think, experience life, and have dreams for our future.
Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults, ages twenty-five and over, had completed at least high school in 2003 (U.S. Census Bureau). After this, going to college becomes a privilege, not a right, and as such, we students try to get the most benefit out of it and apply learned principles into our lives. But there are some things that are just not beneficial and many students think it is a waste of time and money. These are the general education classes.
During my two years of study at Salt Lake Community College, I have found myself frustrated with the fact that I have to take classes that, I think, are not important or do not have any relevance to the degree I want to get. General education classes so far have not taught me any of the skills I need in order to become a public relations specialist, which is what I want to do in the future. Universities and colleges should teach what a student needs in order to succeed in life. Why don’t we leave the lower division classes for when we are in lower education like high school and why don’t we leave higher division classes for when we are in college or in a university? One of the pros in doing this is that there will be a lower rate of students dropping out of college. This will lead to more professionals in the country which also leads to a better economy not only within the United States but also in the world. One of the cons of the story is that graduates will know only about their field and not be well-educated in other subjects and this will lead to limited knowledgeable citizens.
Students want to learn skills.
In her article, “General Education Courses Are a Waste of Time and Money” (northernstar.inf , April 13, 2001), Alyssa Pracz, a well-known columnist of the daily student newspaper of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, argues why college students have to take two years of classes that are not relevant to their careers. She states that “students should not be forced to take classes that cover materials they have already been familiar with at some point in high school.” Pracz also shares her experience as a college student where she thought during her freshman year that college was a “joke.” These classes that are known by the title of “general education,” are a requirement at any US-based school in order to get a bachelor’s degree. But do we really need this curriculum in order to learn the skills that we should have for the jobs that we want?
I agree with Alyssa Pracz on her statement that general education classes are a waste of time and money, because jogging, music, or biology will not give me the skills that I need to learn in order to become a successful public relations specialist.
Many people would agree that two years of general education are a waste of time and money; others think that it is important to find out what path to follow and to know a bit about everything. Liz Addison, a graduate student from Southern Maine Community College, claims in her essay, “Two Years Are Better Than Four.” (2007), published on The New York Times Magazine:
“… it is still possible to enter the college experience as a rookie. That is the understanding, – that you will grow up a bit with your first English class, a bit more with your first psychology class, a lot more with your first biology, physics, and chemistry. That you may shoot through the roof with calculus, philosophy, or genetics.”
Addison expresses her opinion regarding general education and how knowing about everything can be useful. She explains her experience as a student at a community college and claims that college does matter. She states “I believe the community college system to be one of America’s uniquely great institutions. I believe it should be celebrated as such” (Addison).
The statements made by Addison can be, in some way, acceptable for me. I understand that there are thousands of people who don’t know what path to follow or what to accomplish in life, and I empathize with them. However, there are people who have goals and want to move faster. I’m not against community colleges; I’m against general education classes being taught at colleges and universities.
President Barack Obama said in his speech during the State of the Union, usnews.com. (2012) “Now, you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers, places that teach people skills that businesses are for now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.” This is the kind of education that needs to be taught at community colleges and universities, education that allows people to learn what they need to learn so they can go straight to their fields. By doing so, this will lead to numerous of good results like families with a better income and, just like said before, to a better economy in the country which at one point or another leads to a better economy worldwide.
Education is Expensive
Higher education is really expensive and at the same time very important. Steven Rosenstone a Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts of the University of Minnesota, said in his essay, “Challenges Facing Higher Education in America: Lessons and Opportunities” Taking Public Universities Seriously (2004), “…skyrocketing costs have reduced access to our universities and have increased the class, race, and ethnic disparities in college admission and attendance.” So, how are we faring with our higher education? It is simply getting harder for students to afford college and graduate school.
As a consequence, students take longer to finish college so they can work to defray costs, and they borrow more to pay their way. In the 1960’s, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, http://www.heri.ucla.edu about 48 percent of students finished their bachelor’s degrees in four years. Now, about 36 percent do. And according to the latest analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics http://www.nces.ed.gov, students today owe about twice as much as they did ten years ago. Imagine not having to take general education classes, how much money would a student save?
College is so expensive that it is hard to justify taking classes that ultimately do not help in a student’s career; that’s why I believe general education classes are making us, students, spend too much on things that are not helping us to grow professionally.
According to the Salt Lake Community College chart of expenses per year, including fall and spring semesters only, the amount estimated to spend per student is $16,530.00 including books, room and board, personal expenses, transportation, tuition and fees; this amount multiplied by two years (four semesters) will give the grand total of $33,078.00. Is general education really worth this price if you will not learn what you need?
Be ready for any discussion
Now, it is important to know a bit about everything but why don’t we study this while we are in high school? It is important to be involved in our communities. If we establish a conversation, we need to be informed and need to know what we are talking about and that is why these classes are important. Arthur M. Cohen and Florence B. Brawer in their book The American Community College. 5th Edition. August 2008 state,
People need to understand how these things work: social system and persuader, artist and computers. General education is for the creation of a free citizenry, the Greek ideal of the citizen participating in the polity. Because we are embedded in families, tribes and communities, we must learn to be free-thinking citizens, learning the literacy necessary for life in a civil society, the competence to participate in the broader community, the ability to think critically (Cohen and Brawer).
These authors’ claim back up Addison’s opinion about general education in stating that we should know some math, some English, some calculus, etc. Nevertheless, authors like Pracz and me question these teachings at a higher-education institution due to their irrelevance with a professional career.
That is why I propose to the department of education in every state to review the programs that are taught at community colleges and universities and I also want to let them know that subjects like music or history are not necessary to get a degree in electrical engineering or that jogging and social dancing are not necessary to be a doctor. These general education classes should be taught at a high school level and once a student is ready for college or a university, she/he should learn subjects related to his/her career. I also propose that the government should stop cutting funds for higher education, instead they should encourage this generation with incentives to proceed with education and bring this country to a more competitive place in a global market.
Addison, Liz. “Two Years Are Better Than Four.” New York Times Magazine. (2007)
Cohen, Arthur M. and Brawer, Florence B. The American Community College. 5th
Edition. p376. August 2008.
“Educational Expenses” Slcc.edu
Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles,
Jefferson, Thomas. “Your Career Plan * Harvard Skills * Princeton Skills * Wythe Skills *
Mentors, Classics and Career Success” Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century. (2006)
National Center for Education Statistics http://www.nces.ed.gov
Obama, Barack. “Obama pushes STEM in State of the Union” Usnews.com January 25, 2012
Pracz , Alyssa. “General education courses are a waste of time and money.” Northernstar.inf April 13, 2011.
Rosenstone, Steven. “Challenges Facing. Higher Education in America: Lessons and Opportunities” Taking Public Universities Seriously. March 3, 2004.
U.S. Census Bureau. Census.gov