OPINION: General education is vital to the ultimate success of university students

Though some students feel that general education requirements are a hindrance, others feel they help to necessarily broaden students' knowledge base (photo by Gopi Raghu).
Though some students feel that general education requirements are a hindrance, others feel they help to necessarily broaden students' knowledge base (photo by Gopi Raghu).

As a freshman, my courses this year are varied; many of them are not particularly relevant to my major—this being a product of the dreaded general education requirements at Mason, or “gen eds.” Overall, many students feel that gen eds are an unnecessary waste of time. I, quite honestly, beg to differ. Gen eds do tend to be less strenuous than my more specific classes, but I believe students should put a great deal of focus and dedication into them as they provide background knowledge; this ultimately provides a platform on which to build understanding in our higher-level courses.

I have noticed there are a lot of subjects I didn’t learn about in high school. Thus, I have really been enjoying all of the introductory level courses I am currently in. They give me a chance to learn more about unfamiliar subjects, which brings me to my next point: gen eds give students time to explore their interests before they must commit to their major. They allow you to take all different types of courses that may not be directly relevant to what you imagine yourself doing in the future. Without general education, you could remain unexposed to an unexpected field of work which you’d find you’re passionate about. And that is what makes gen eds awesome—when else in your life are you going to be able to take all of these assorted classes and not feel bad about it? That’s right—never. You are going to get swept up in your chosen field of study, and that super interesting Classical Mythology course is just not going to be a justifiable use of your time.

On that note, gen eds do allow students to become well rounded. I selected my classes somewhat randomly this semester, just choosing a bunch of requirements that fit my schedule well. As the semester moves forward, I have realized that everything is connected in one way or another. Some classes support other classes in unexpected ways.

This semester, I am enrolled in physical anthropology and biology. These two classes overlap in that each has spent a good portion of time on the topic of DNA and evolution. I have a deeper understanding of genetics because the information has been reinforced in my head from differing perspectives. This approach to education prevents Mason grads from being too one faceted as the knowledge gained in gen eds allows them to approach projects and discussions from different angles. The religion and culture gen eds help students to develop a cultural understanding, which is beneficial in today’s globalizing world. Philosophy can be applied to almost anything, and natural sciences are important for understanding what composes our Earth.

Apart from being more marketable, well rounded grads are going to thrive in their specialties. This is because they have the background knowledge to absorb and follow both old and new concepts, and they can contribute much more than a person who has never taken a public speaking course, for instance. Students attend college to receive a higher education—such an education is impossible without general education.

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