By Benjamin Whitener
Many students pose the question of why do I have to take this class? They wonder why certain classes are required of them when it has absolutely nothing to do with their major. After all, we’re in college now. Shouldn’t we be moving on to classes that will prepare us for our future careers?
Most of the questions asked are from people who just want to get college done with and move on with their lives. But are we missing something? Do the people who decide what classes are required know something that students don’t? Obviously they do or students wouldn’t be taking general education classes anymore.
So why the general education classes? What about these classes will make us successful in our endeavors into the professional world? To answer those questions we need to look at what the classes are and what about them we can apply to everyday life.
We’ll start with the big one, math. Pretty much every college on the face of the earth requires students to take at least a college level algebra class. What does college algebra have to do with anything? Well, if you are a math major the answer is pretty obvious, especially if you are going to be a math teacher. For everyone else, algebra helps to put problem solving skills into an understandable form. It teaches how to follow methods of solving problems certain ways.
Math is also a necessity in our world that is so grounded in money. Not all monetary situations can be solved with a simple add and subtract method. If you graduate from college and go on to work for a large business you may want to be able to predict future sales and determine what the rate of growth will be for the business. That means using exponential growth charts which are based on, that’s right, math.
So we see that even though we may not like all of the number crunching, we probably need some math for everyday use.
What’s next then? Writing? Most colleges require at least one, and many times two college level composition courses. Why?
As the age of technology moves further along a trend of people relying on spell check and grammar check is ever present. However, we shouldn’t rely solely on Microsoft Word to do the work for us.
Texting is another major culprit in the war against proper grammar and spelling. We shorten words and use improper grammar so that we can type quicker and save our thumbs. This makes it more important than ever to have a traditional writing class required of all students. If you go out into the real world and get a job where you have to type up memos or presentations, you might want to be able to put together a document that flows and makes sense. If you show up with a document that looks like a 13-year-old girl typed it on her cell phone you probably won’t survive the next round of layoffs.
These two are really the biggest of the bunch, but they aren’t the only ones. History, economics, humanities, communications and many more are all important. Most of these type classes teach interaction between people. In history you see how people have interacted in the past and to beat the old saying to death, history teaches us the mistakes of the past so that we are not doomed to repeat them.
Economics teaches how our economy works. Many Americans boast that we have a capitalistic economic system. Do we really? Taking economics will definitely help you find out.
In humanities, we learn of other cultures and societies and how places outside of our little town in Kansas operate. It gives us a sense of what other people live like. The humanities classes helps us to open out minds to things that are beyond our simple borders.
We need to stop fighting the fact that general education courses are required and realize that they really do help us in the end. Besides, maybe one day you will make it on to “Jeopardy” or “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” Then you’ll be thanking you college professors for imparting their great knowledge and wisdom on to you.
Benjamin Whitener is a junior majoring in digital arts. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.