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  • Writer's picture The Vindicator

What's the Deal with Gen-Ed?

What’s their purpose and why are they here?

Written by Dan Perrine

Have you ever been sitting in a class —  it could be math, science, or maybe even a foreign language — and wondered, what am I doing here? Aren't I paying to be here? I’m majoring in English. Why do I need to know quadratic equations? If you couldn’t tell from the title, I’m talking about what I believe is one of the most heinous ideas of our higher education system. I’m of course referring to the dreaded general education requirements! 

Picture this: you come to college, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with grade school far behind you. At last, you're ready to pursue your degree, one that will get you even closer to your dream job. Or maybe for some people, just a job to pay the bills. However, you're not ready just yet. You still have to take these wonderful little classes referred to as gen-ed — and if you're lucky, maybe you’ll get one class that’s sort of catered to your major during your first semester. Despite this fact, you give the college your money, with the promise that they’ll teach you the skills you need for whatever your desired future job is. Well … at least they will, once you're finished with that collection of classes I like to refer to as “high school part two.” 

"I could have gotten more value out of watching a Saturday morning cartoon."

And that’s what I think is the biggest sin of all. If I was going here for free, sure, I’d take another math class — why not? But no. They take your money and then bar you from furthering the pursuit of your desired profession behind a paywall. And that’s just tuition. How could I forget about those outrageously expensive textbooks? All for what: a class that I’m going to forget as soon as the semester ends? Two required math credits? Two required science classes? I’m a creative writing major, for crying out loud! 

And if you like math, that’s great. It certainly isn’t for me, but who am I to rain on your parade? If you want to take something, even if it’s outside your major, I believe you should have every right to do so. For example, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at acting. Does it have anything to do with creative writing? No! But I’ll walk away from it with a valuable new experience.

And that’s what these gen-eds and required classes are missing for the most part: value. You get nothing but more unnecessary stress and misery. At best, maybe you’ll meet a new friend. You're gonna need one if you want to make it through this class with all your sanity still intact!

It’s not just the money that’s going down the drain thanks to these classes. Almost just as despicable: they waste your time, inside and outside the classroom. What could I have done with all that time I spent working on homework? What new experiences could I have created with my friends? I could have also put that time and energy into advancing my skills in the classes that actually matter to me. Heck, I could have gotten more value out of watching a Saturday morning cartoon.

Anyway, enough of my ranting. You're probably asking yourself right now, do I have any evidence to back up my theory on why gen-eds are the worst idea ever? And my response to that is, do I even need one? Alright, I kid! I’ll play your little game. Let me show you real proof of why gen-eds serve zero purpose. Let’s start with Europe, shall we? You know, those guys from across the pond? Generally, at their colleges, there is much less of an emphasis on gen-ed classes. While European students typically spend three years in pursuit of their undergraduate degrees, here in the United States, we take four years. So, what does this tell us? That Europeans are better than us? Unfortunately, I believe, yes. Makes you wonder whatever happened to this country's patriotism, doesn’t it? Where did we go wrong? 

Now, I’ve been beating up on gen-eds pretty badly since we got started here, and I think, just to be fair, I should try to identify if there are any good qualities that come along with these useless classes.  I did some digging and came upon an article by Southern Utah University, which claims that gen-eds are not that difficult and include benefits like learning new things and better equipping yourself with job skills. And with this article coming from a university, what does this tell us? This is obviously college propaganda. Even when I try to show some defense for these classes, I’m just given more reason to believe that they are absent of good intentions. Of course they want you to believe that gen-eds are worth your while! That way, they can keep their students around longer. 

There you have it. I’ve finished my sermon and preached the good word on why gen-ed classes are purposeless, impractical, waste of time classes that are good for nothing. But now, as I get off my soap box, I ask: how do we get rid of them?

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