This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.
I’ve never heard an undergraduate college student say they are thankful that they have to take general education courses before focusing on their major. No future doctor wants to take a Western history course and no history major wants to waste time on biology courses.
The purpose behind gen ed classes seems to be noble and makes a lot of sense. Giving every student a shallow knowledge of a little bit of every subject is a great idea in theory. In reality, though, gen eds put more stress on students while wasting their time and money.
High school should be the time to learn about all subjects and get educated in all sorts of subjects. It's a time designed for that, when you don't get to pick a focus and are required to study a variety of subjects. Students should come into college knowing enough about general studies and being able to immediately start studying what they are interested in.
Gen ed courses should still be offered at colleges, though, because there are plenty of college students who get to freshman year and have no clue what they want to major in. If they take a few courses in a variety of subjects, they might be able to find out what they want to do in the future.
These courses should not be required, however. If a student knows without a doubt that they want to be an engineer, they should not have to waste time on courses they are not interested in or that will not help them in their future. By requiring the courses, students are being forced to spend time and money on courses that likely will not count toward credit hours for their major.
By making gen ed courses optional, a lot of students would graduate sooner and get into the work force sooner. By cutting out the courses, a college education could be cheaper which would reduce the amount of loans students would have to take out and they would be easier to pay back. In reducing the amount of loans, students would experience less stress while paying them back and they would not linger over the heads of working-class citizens for as long as they do now.
Another argument that could be made in favor of gen ed requirements is that they make you look well-rounded and versatile on job applications. However, if you are looking to work in finance, your prospective employer most likely will not care about that art class you took freshman year. In fact, if the art class (hypothetically) cost you some other fundamental skill because it stressed you out or took up your time, it could negatively impact your proficiency in your chosen field.
There are certain classes that help anyone in any field of work and do make students better people. Taking foreign language classes should remain a requirement, for instance, as long as the system of "testing out" of these classes stays in place. By taking the other gen ed courses, though, students truly become more versatile on a job application and would be more successful in life.
Making gen ed courses optional is a win-win for all college students and whoever is paying their tuition. Students may find what they are passionate about through taking gen ed courses, but students who already know what they want to do would not have to waste time on the courses.