Stop requiring general education classes in college

By Danika Young | LTVN Reporter/Anchor

General education classes have always been part of the college educational experience. The Association of American Colleges and Universities says the term “general education” became the popular name for classes not correlating with a student’s major in the early 1900s. Now, American colleges and universities require a certain number of core classes in order to graduate and earn a degree.

When I first came to Baylor, I became frustrated with the number of required classes that had no impact on my major or what I wanted to pursue career-wise. Within the College of Arts and Sciences, we are required to take five common courses that were not what I was expecting: American Literary Cultures (3 hours), The United States in Global Perspective (3 hours), The U.S. Constitution, Its Interpretation, and the American Political Experience (3 hours), Christian Scriptures (3 hours) and Christian Heritage (3 hours). At first glance, it seemed like an odd list of required classes.

In addition to those five, students are required to take 10 classes that they can choose from on the distribution list, similar to the common courses. Those options are Communication and Media Literacy (3 hours), Contemporary Social Issues (3 hours), Fine Arts (3 hours), Foreign Language and Culture (8-12 hours), Formal Reasoning (3 hours), Literature in Context (3 hours), Research Writing (3 hours), Science Method I (4 hours), Science Method II (3 hours) and Lifetime Fitness (1-4 hours). This list seemed more typical for a university like Baylor.

In addition to the common core classes and the distribution list, students are also required to complete Chapel (zero credit hours) and Creative Arts Experiences (zero credit hours). It seemed odd that chapel is required for all students, especially when many students may not be religious or choose to believe in other religions. In addition, both of these are zero credit hours yet are still required by the university.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Lee C. Nordt lists three reasons for their required core curriculum. No. 1, it provides a shared foundation of knowledge drawn from the rich and diverse liberal arts tradition. No. 2, it develops various skills necessary for the completion of an academic degree but also essential for personal and professional life beyond Baylor. No. 3, it inspires moral, intellectual and spiritual virtues.

I believe that knowledge, skills and virtues can still be obtained without required courses. Obviously, I know that Baylor or other universities would never discontinue requiring general education courses, but the system should be altered for a student’s interests, not the university’s pocket.

While it can be beneficial to learn new things and acquire new skills, around 25% of classes taken are required general education classes. This means students waste time and money on a requirement versus a chosen subject. Should students really be required to spend time and money on subjects that do not particularly interest them or have any effect on their future careers?

I came to Baylor as a freshman with around a full year of credits completed because I took community college classes in high school. I assumed my general education classes would be less overloading, but I was wrong. I still feel like I am wasting time, energy and money on pointless classes and not enough on the courses I am excited to take within my major. This seems to be the case with many students, especially within the first two years of college.

In high school, we took plenty of common core classes that enhance intellect and skills. In college, we have the freedom to choose a career path and take those classes; however, an overload of general education courses can distract students from that path.

Realistically, if general education courses weren’t required, students could complete college in two years or spend four years on the classes they choose. This would save money, time and energy and would enhance a student’s educational experience the way they choose.