Some people go into college with their minds set on what they want their career to be, but end up not liking their career when they try it out in the real world. If students took general education classes, they might be motivated to keep their options open and not commit to a single path in life. In the future, many workers will switch from job to job, rather than the traditional model of having one career for life. A diverse college curriculum will better prepare students for the economy of tomorrow.
Lets be clear, general education is Math, History, English, etc. Sure, we learned that in the K-12 grades, but now we need to learn it at a higher level. We need to learn how to communicate in the real world. Also, most higher level classes in specialized subjects will require knowledge gained in Gen. Eds.
The average American on goes at least 4 carrier changes in their live and it's always best to offer general education so that they can be reminded what certain areas are like hands on. This also better prepares students for certain areas of education because the more knowledge the better.
Students take Gen Ed courses to be more "well-rounded" people. Many of these courses provide an opportunity to become a better critical thinker and problem solver in the long run. It is shortsighted to think they have no transference beyond college. No matter how many argue that this is accomplished in K-12; that's simply not true. Content acquisition is not the same thing as learning how to think.
Developmentally, gaining critical thinking skills happens best when we reach the 18-20 year old threshold. Critical thinking happens more effectively when students are exposed to multiple disciplines and ways of thinking and have to make meaning across disciplines. With one of the biggest complaints employers have about college graduates being their inability to problem solve and think critically, the necessity of the Gen Ed courses is obvious. Perhaps the issue is making them more relevant to college students and explaining Why they are needed.
Even a brilliant Engineer (who gets tons of Math & Science) needs to know how to work in a diverse workplace (diversity/mulitcultural classes), write and communicate effectively (writing/public speaking), and understand that how people think and work together can make or break the workplace environment (social sciences: sociology/psychology).
Likewise, a humanities major (whose major is not going to translate directly into a specific field) needs to have a basic understanding of Math, Science, Technology, and Social interactions in order to "sell" themselves creatively in a tight job market -- You want to be a technical writer for a major pharmaceutical company? Then understanding the language of science is tantamount to doing an effective job.
I believe that everyone should be knowledgeable in every area. They don't have to be experts, but should have some general knowledge. Without "having" to do this, many people wouldn't. To me it's about being lazy and not wanting to learn. I'm starting college after 14 years of being out of high school... And at first I thought like many who have voted no, but come to find out, I really needed refresher courses. I had forgotten much of what I learned in high school because it's not something that I use everyday. I still think it is important to know and learn though.
We have to admit that lots of college students have no clue what they want to be in the future when they first enter college. Generally education provides the chance to explore the different opportunities and sets up a sound basis for future career. Although there are a lot that can be improved, I do believe that general education is essential to a successful life in the future.
Even though college students have taken general education in previous education, not everyone has had the same level of cognitive development. General education courses will help develop that; no matter what level of cognitive development one is at.
General education classes increase knowledge and helps build logical thinking mechanisms.
Who wants engineer that knows how to build a bridge, but doesn't know when and why a bridge is needed? Who wants a doctor that knows how to amputate a leg, but doesn't understand the ethics of it?
College is a time of great change and development, and if we are only exposed to a single stream of academic thought then we miss out on a wide range of exquisite knowledge. This is a tremendous opportunity, to experience and develop thoughts which you might never come in contact with while you are off studying for your major. It is one opportunity which I plan to seize to its highest potential.
It's important for colleges to produce well-rounded alumni. Students should be exposed to a certain amount of general education, no matter what their major is. Even if a science student is brilliant, no one will listen to their ideas if they are not articulate. In the same way, humanities students will always need some math for their everyday life.
If a student just follows the requirements for their desired major, then what happens if they don't get any job in that field and end up failing? If they haven't taken any of the other required gen-eds then they wouldn't know what other way to go because they didn't take any of those classes. Also if the students aren't required to take these gen-eds and are still undecided, then how are they supposed to decide? Students should take all the requirements to find a second and/or interest/skill just in case the first one or two fail.
Students going into college who already know what they would like to do should only have to take courses that pertain to that field and become "experts" in it. If a student doesn't know yet then they can take general education and try to figure out what they would be interested in. It's a very simple solution that would probably help many students excel in their respective fields of study because they would be more focused on their potential careers instead of dividing their effort amongst general education courses "just in case."
You went to school for 12 years to learn for your general education. Kids go to college to be educated usually, in the field of what you would want to do with your life. I'm a college student taking IT Network administration and have to take a chemistry class. I don't want to learn chemistry, I want to educated about what working field I would like to go into.
General education has already been taught to students grades K-12, a few more years of it when they're supposed to be learning how to operate in a specific field is not only unnecessary, but it's counterproductive. By college-age, they're no longer children. The education system shouldn't have to continue to hold their hand, they should either know what they're going in for, or hold off on college for a bit longer.
When students go through elementary and high school, they are learning a wide variety of topics, including essential foundations such as reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. During these years, they should discover their personal strengths, weaknesses, tastes, and preferences. College, then, should give them every opportunity to capitalize on their strengths, without requiring them to exercise their weaknesses. Furthermore, it may be healthy or personally fulfilling for an engineering student to participate in sports or music, but these skills will likely have little or no bearing on his engineering skills. Therefore, they should be offered, but not required.
A lot of material covered in general education is a rehash of what student have already been educated in---writing well, speaking eloquently, using basic/necessary math skills, being able to think about something deeply and personally. That being said, forcing students to retake all of those things in college seems to stem from a lack of confidence in the student's abilities to pursue those things on their own time, and have the adult capacity to learn independently.
Solution: test basic aptitude in general education courses and work with the students who need help improving those skills (preferably independently), and let those who have developed them already take the courses they WANT, and let them explore themselves and their career interests that way.
English: have them submit a few short pieces of writing. Say an academic research paper, a short story or novel-type piece, and a professional email. If they don't have the basic grammar and spelling skills to do those right, then have them take an online or small-group class on language and composition.
Math: test personal finance abilities (aka basic addition, subtraction, multiplication), and perhaps some algebra. If they can't handle things because they don't understand, have them take a full class. If they just need a refresh or a framework, again, online education can be very effective.
Philosophy: give them some poignant articles to read (preferably on a subject they are interested in), and conduct an interview in which the student responds to questions about the moral implications of a given idea or action. If they can articulate themselves in a one-on-one setting in matters of philosophy, they're good to go. If not, small group study to improve their critical thinking skills.
In the end, all of these skills are certainly valuable, but students who already have them or are very capable of developing them on their own should not have to sacrifice valuable skill-building and career-oriented learning time. College is about becoming an adult, and as a college student, I want to be educated in my field, and not be forcibly ushered through a "learning experience" that I would rather pursue on my own.
Spending two years taking classes that you will not use on your job everyday is absurd! The amount of money in school loans you have when you're finished is ridiculous and most of it was spent on general education courses, courses that you won't remember anything that you learned while you were in class after you graduate anyway due to a lack of interest in the subjects. College is just a money making business. All students shouldn't be required to take general education classes just because a few are unsure of what they want to do after they leave high school.
Some of us as adults are completely sure of what we want to do and would actually like to get started in our field. It should be up to the student to choose whether or not they wish to take these classes. Being more "well rounded" won't help you to do your job better or more accurately. When you take your car to a mechanic for instance, you don't care whether that mechanic knows about the civil war, abstract art, how many organs are in the body or about Bach or Mozart. You want to know that he/she can fix your car and do the job right and not screw up your brakes when you went to them for a wheel alignment. Your time spent at college should be to focus on your specific major and career path that you are looking to take.
Besides, anything you wish to know or learn about you can easily find through Google (without having to pay for it). If students are unaware of what they wish to do or would like to dab into some of their other areas of interests then take a few non-credit courses and perhaps take a look at the High School curriculum then and make changes there.
If you don't have some sort of idea about what subjects you liked or didn't like in school or some sort of idea about what career you wanted to enter into from 5-17 or 18 years old, then there's a problem with the education system at the grade level then not at the college level. Job shadowing, etc. should be happening in Junior High School and High School to help students make those decisions. Speaking in front of a class and writing essays, reports, etc., you should have done by the time you've graduated high school and mastered that. Most of us have, so why should we have to do it again in college? There's nothing else to learn about those subjects! College is supposed to prepare you for whatever line of work it is that you are seeking not giving you refresher courses on things you've already learned. Two to three years max in college is all that should be necessary to take the classes for your major. That's just my opinion however, but it looks like a good percentage of others agree with me!
I spent my high school years learning about a variety of topics. College should not be a repeat of what I already learned. I know how to write a college paper, and retaking the same courses is a waste of my time. I applied to college because I want to study a specific topic, not choose random courses that fulfill requirements.
I have yet to learn something new in my general education courses. It seems I keep doing the same thing over and over again. I'm so tired of this general education that I almost feel like quitting. I haven't even gotten into professional school yet but I have already looked into it and I will be doing the same thing over again there too! Maybe if we didn't have so much general ed. We would have less debt and more people working to help out the economy. Thanks for helping us stay bogged down in debt with lame courses that mean absolutely nothing!
Science major students have to take courses like their state government, many of them are making plans of moving out of state after graduating, and courses like these affect their GPA. This is something similar to evaluating a Biology major based on their knowledge of american history or federal government.
General education courses are a waste of time and money for those who have a career picked out. While there should be general education courses available for those who haven't yet decided their major, anything beyond that is pointless. All the general education one could possibly need should be learned in High School. The fundamentals of Algebra, World History, Kinematics, Biology, and Language are indeed more than sufficient to produce a productive citizen outside their field of study.