When Gen Eds Go Wrong

In class, when we discussed the GLOBE, we also talked about the gen ed requirements and why they are in place. I believe that one of the biggest reasons for gen eds is to push us out of our comfort zone and force us to take classes that we would not otherwise take, and in doing so, get us to learn new skills and fulfill the 8 learning outcomes listed in the GLOBE: critical thinking; communication; quantitative, computational, and symbolic reasoning; informational and digital literacy; creativity and creative thinking; leadership and collaboration; diversity and pluralism; and global awareness and engagement. These are definitely valuable skills for us to learn, but we need to be careful that we do not place more value on some of these skills over others.

In my high school, the requirements for core classes worked out such that a student who so desired could stop taking math and science classes after 10th grade, but English and social studies courses were mandatory all four years. Most students did not have a problem with this – if you hated math and science, like a significant portion of the school did, you got more free time in your schedule, and even if you loved math and science, you could still have free periods if you didn’t take electives. The problem arose for people like me, whose interests did not fit in a neat box. I have always loved math and science, but I also loved music. However, I could not fit in all of the math, science, and music classes I was interested in because of all the other classes I had to take. I ended up having to give up choir, one of my passions and something that I was good at, in order to fit in the other required courses.
I don’t think that gen ed requirements are a bad thing, or that we should never try new things. In fact, I think gen eds are, in addition to a way to build new skill sets, a very valuable way to discover new interests. However, I think we need to aware of requirements that may place more value on certain skill sets and make it harder for students with skills in other areas to succeed.

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