We need less general education classes

By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer

Today is the day. You organize the ten alternate class schedules you’ve composed for next semester’s classes, making sure you have the correct times and teachers you’ve been hoping for. You’re a sophomore majoring in English, but are taking a lab science, two language classes, american literature, and are really betting on the fact that you’ll find a spot in a few desirable lifetime fitness classes.

This scenario most likely feels all too familiar as a Baylor student. Despite having chosen a major and knowing the general direction you want to take in terms of a future job, you’re stressing to fit in classes that you know have absolutely no correlation to what you hope to ultimately pursue.

General education requirements at Baylor have become excessive and difficult to easily fulfill. While I personally believe that receiving a general education on a variety subjects was the purpose of attending high school and general education in college is unnecessary, I understand that general education courses probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and that colleges aim for students to be well-rounded.

As a student studying journalism, I feel comfortable taking general education classes related to fine arts, social science, English and history — these are liberal arts related topics, and many of these classes were interesting and informative for me. I am even OK with taking the one math class I’m required to take for my major, as I see that as a reasonable requirement.

However, I have a problem with the fact that I am required to take three semesters of lab sciences, four semesters of a foreign language and four semesters of Lifetime Fitness classes. A class or two is doable, but all of these credits together add up and are difficult to fulfill, especially knowing that I am simply taking these classes for the sole purpose of completing credits.

This is all coming from the perspective of a journalism major. I understand that each major at Baylor is different and contains different requirements, but I’ve noticed frustration among students of a variety of academic fields at Baylor over the amount of classes they have to take that are completely unrelated to their intended field of study.

Although I realize it’s unreasonable for there to be no general education requirements, there are three specific areas I believe need to be altered: an end to lifetime fitness requirements and a limitation on foreign language credits for all majors, as well as a limitation of lab science requirements for liberal arts majors and English and history requirements for science majors.

There is absolutely no need for college students to be forced to take Lifetime Fitness classes. We’ve all taken physical education classes in high school and earlier schooling and are all adults who should have a solid grasp on the importance of exercise by this time in our lives. Many students exercise by working out at the McLane Student Life Center, through Baylor intramurals or with outside classes or programs. Requiring students to take lifetime fitness classes results in students fighting over limited spots in classes like relaxation and aerobic walking to finish off the credits.

Foreign language requirements also need to be limited for Baylor students. Many high schools require students to take at least two years of a foreign language, and I personally was required to take a Spanish class every year from kindergarten to eighth grade as well. More than one semester of a foreign language as a requirement for any major is excessive. If a student is interested in furthering their knowledge and fluency in another language, they have the option to major or minor in that language and can study abroad in a country of their choice as well.

Finally, liberal arts majors should have a limited requirement of lab science classes, and science majors need a limit to the amount of English and history classes students are taking. Science, history and English are basic subjects that all students have taken since elementary school and required more advanced options to be taken in high school like anatomy or world history, for example. Students pursuing careers in liberal arts majors know that they won’t need further knowledge of science topics for their future job, and writing essays and reading novels in high school should have prepared science majors with the knowledge they need to form coherent thoughts through writing. Any general education requirements should be in areas like fine arts and English for liberal arts majors and math or biology/chemistry for science majors.

This being said, I also want to address the positive changes that are being made for the College of Arts and Sciences. The department is working to create “flexibility with the core curriculum” and to “not be burdensome” according to Baylor’s Approved Core Curriculum, by limiting foreign language requirements and making science credits less difficult to fit into a student’s schedule. Other core general education requirements are also being altered and revised to create an opportunity for students in this department to excel in classes and be interested in the material.

In conclusion, general education requirements, specifically those completely unrelated to a student’s major of interest, deserve the consideration of being limited, revised or completely eliminated. I appreciate Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences for considering the needs of students and working to implement change for core classes, but still think more can always be done to benefit students in the most effective way possible. If students have to spend time taking general requirements, the classes shouldn’t be in excess, and effort should be made to include class options related to what the student is spending money to learn about.