General education requirements make us well-rounded

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

By James Worsham | Contributor

When I enrolled at Baylor and registered for my first semester of classes, I found it burdensome to have to take core curriculum classes that I didn’t see as important to my education. However, reflecting on my time here, I came to appreciate these classes, and have arrived at the conclusion that core curriculum classes at Baylor University fill a very important role in a student’s education and should not be reduced.

In the first place, the truth is that not every college graduate ends up in a career directly related to their chosen field of study. According to a 2013 survey by CareerBuilder, 47 percent of those surveyed said their first job out of college was not related to their major, and as many as 32 percent of those surveyed said that they never found such a job. If college is to prepare students for entering the workforce, it must prepare them even for the possibility that they do not work in their chosen field. Therefore, college curricula should produce a well-rounded individual who can work in a variety of settings, not a person who is only skilled at one task.

Plus, the idea that classes outside of one’s major will be useless in their career is also untrue. For example, as a math major, I resented having to take a class in technical writing as I believed that the composition skills I had gained in high school would be more than enough. However, when I did a summer internship in research, which was exactly in line with the kind of career I hope for, I found that the writing and communicating skills I had learned in my university English class were invaluable when I had to write reports and a presentation as part of my job duties.

Beyond considerations of pure career prospects, however, the concept of a university has always been to produce individuals who can think independently and enjoy intellectual pursuits, not just to prepare students for a job. Any of the core classes Baylor requires can be useful for better understanding the world around us and acting well. Without understanding science, we would freely pollute the world without understanding the consequences. Without knowledge of history, we are prone to repeat the mistakes of the past. Without learning languages, we will always be isolated to the sphere of our own tongue. The purpose of university is to produce individuals that understand all these things and, knowing them, live well.

Another consideration is the variety of schooling backgrounds students who enter Baylor come from. A student body of more than 14,000 undergraduates includes students who were schooled all over the world. Even among those just from Texas, there are students who went to magnet schools, private schools, preparatory schools and comprehensive schools, of varying budgets and sizes, not to mention those who were home schooled. This diversity is an asset, but the core curriculum ensures that every student lives up to a minimum level of academic performance. In the case that a student’s background has allowed them to reach this standard without taking a college class, Baylor also permits the use of AP and CLEP exams to receive credit.

My freshman semester, I resented having to take a language class as I thought the three years of German I took in high school should be enough and wanted to take more major classes. Nevertheless, I ended up taking Japanese. After I finished my fourth semester, I had fallen in love with the language, picked up a minor in it and did an exchange semester in Japan. Had I not been required to take a language, or even if I had had to take just one semester, I probably would have never taken advantage of those opportunities, which have been perhaps my favorite part of my college career. I am grateful that the core curriculum pushed me to take those classes and step out of my comfort zone. After all, what is college for if not to expand our horizons.

James Worsham
Brentwood, Tenn.