Purpose of general education courses

Danielle Zukowski

It’s quite common to hear students complain about having to take general education courses. With each added requirement, all we see is more time and more money. Those with a declared major just want to graduate already. They want their degree – not to be stuck in a class that is utterly irrelevant to their future.

That’s completely understandable. College is not cheap. It’s hard. We have a lot of work on our shoulders already and we’re really just trying to get by. But, with that said, general education requirements are a building block of a liberal education.

Yes, at times it’s awful. Especially when those extraneous classes start to hurt your GPA. But that’s part of why we are here – to explore diverse perspectives. We look through different lenses – science, social science, mathematics, literary, visual, etc.

A lot of the time we discover it’s not a lens we intend to look through again. In that, we are starting to sort out our likes and dislikes. No, we aren’t going to like every course we take here at Grand Valley, even if it is for our major. It’s part of the learning experience.

Even if the only thing you can take from a class is that you realize you’re not interested in the subject, it’s something. It’s helping you to figure out your future – especially for the students that are undecided.

It’s important to have these general education courses because most people weren’t exposed to many of the subjects offered here at GVSU. I was fortunate enough to have classes like sociology and anthropology in high school, but many other schools didn’t. If they were able to learn about the social science perspective, it was probably through psychology. Sometimes that push is necessary.

We just really don’t know until we try. Last semester I came into college with a declared major. I was set on the pre-physical therapy track and was super excited. I felt secure, prepared. I had a four-year curriculum planned out.

Part of the general education program was taking a science class with a lab. After taking both biology and chemistry, I started to realize it wasn’t for me. I was thinking more about the idea of the job rather than the actual job. I was so dead set that I didn’t really consider other options, especially with the STEM focus in education.

Being in classes from different fields introduced me to new interests and other career opportunities. It doesn’t have to be something with science or math. I also realized how easy it was to change my major, especially as a freshman while still in these general education courses. This is another good thing about them – they give you leg room.

It does feel useless sometimes, but they truly are in the curriculum for a reason. 

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