It’s that time of year again. Desperate upperclassmen are filling their schedules with leftover general education requirements that teach them skills long ago developed in the natural process of taking classes that directly pertain to their interests.
If you are one of those students, you have just sat through a week of Comparative Literature 001 with a graduate student merely two years your senior. This grad student cares just as much as you do about Books of the Ancient World. They are only teaching to pay off their master’s degree. You will run into them after class at The Davis Beer Shoppe — the only real reprieve after two hours of discussing symbolism with 18-year-olds.
Yes, yes. There was a time when this class would have been useful. But for many upperclassmen, that time has long passed with the days when bong-hits were a novelty and frat parties were fun.
The problem of GEs is really a problem of our impersonal education system. Freshmen don’t have access to the advising necessary to understand the consequences of putting off GEs until their final quarters. And advisors don’t have the time or relationships with students to know when they would benefit from an exception to the requirements.
As a totally random example, the Editorial Board has this friend … and this friend put off their writing requirements until senior year. And even though this friend has taken four upper-division English classes, this friend still has to take ENL 003 to fill the lower-division writing requirement. This friend still has one last English class to finish the minor.
Instead, they are in academic purgatory, relearning sentence structure.
This friend may or may not be an editor at the school newspaper.
This friend KNOWS sentence structure!
Personal problems aside, there are other confusing stipulations that make it difficult to stay on track. Many students wonder why some of their science classes, such as the geology class “Dinosaurs” (Geology 12) don’t fill their GE science requirement. While theoretically we were taught at orientation to check for the abbreviated, italicized “Sci/Eng” in the course catalog, it’s not always intuitive which classes count.
(Of course these codes are different from the new system used by first-years and sophomores, further proving the confusion.)
This is not to say that general education requirements should be eliminated. Ideally, these classes benefit students and help expand their understanding of the world. They bridge the gaps that incomprehensive primary education left, and they encourage interest in areas students may not have known they would enjoy.
However, they should not be an inflexible necessity that cock-blocks juniors and seniors from taking classes that will directly benefit their education. There should be encouragement to substitute classes that would logically teach the same skills, allowing students to graduate on time while still taking classes at their grade-level.