By Danika Young | Journalist / Anchor LTVN
General education courses have always been part of the college educational experience. The Association of American Colleges and Universities says that the term “general education” became the popular name for classes that did not correlate with a student’s major in the early 1900s. Now American colleges and universities require a number of core coursework to graduate and earn a degree.
When I first came to Baylor, I became frustrated with the number of courses required 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 complete five common courses which weren’t what I expected: American Literary Cultures (3 hours), The United States in Global Perspective (3 hours), The US Constitution, Its Interpretation, and the American Political Experience (3 hours), Christian Scriptures (3 hours) and Christian Heritage (3 hours). At first glance, it looked like an odd list of required courses.
In addition to these five courses, students must take 10 courses from which they can choose from the distribution list, similar to the common courses. These 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 and Cast List courses, students are also required to complete Chapel (zero credit hours) and Creative Arts Experiences (zero credit hours). It seemed strange that the chapel was required for all students, especially when many students may not be religious or choose to believe in other religions. Also, these two hours are zero credit, but are still required by the university.
The 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 obtaining a university 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 compulsory courses. Of course, I know Baylor or other universities would never stop requiring GED courses, but the system should be changed for the benefit of the student, not the university.
Although it can be beneficial to learn new things and acquire new skills, approximately 25% of the courses taken are compulsory general education courses. This means that students waste time and money on a requirement against a chosen subject. Should students really be forced to spend time and money on subjects that don’t particularly interest them or have no effect on their future careers?
I came to Baylor as a freshman with about a full year of credits completed because I attended community college in high school. I assumed my general education classes would be less crowded, but I was wrong. I always feel like I’m wasting time, energy, and money on useless courses and not enough on courses I’m excited to take as part of my major. This seems to be the case with many students, especially in the first two years of college.
In high school, we took many common core courses that improve intellect and skills. In college, we have the freedom to choose a career path and take those courses; however, an overload of general education courses can steer students away from this path.
Realistically, if general education courses were not required, students could complete their college education in two years or spend four years in the courses of their choice. This would save money, time and energy and enhance a student’s educational experience as desired.