Are general education courses a waste of time?
Author Ethan Ford; Media by Kelsey Kuethe.
Going to Greenville College means many things, but one certainty is that you’ll be required to take a large amount, perhaps even a majority, of classes that are not specific to your major. These general education courses range from psychology to HPR and students often take them from first semester freshman year until their final semester as seniors. But are they worthwhile? Does a mathematics major, such as myself, need to know about the history of Western civilization?
I think the answer to that question depends on your motivations for asking. If you are concerned solely about technical knowledge in the workplace, then no, as a math major I will probably not apply the facts I learned in Western Civilization in that context. I feel that general education courses are not a waste of time, however, because I am motivated not only to be an excellent mathematician, but also to be a well educated person. This motivation leads me to feel that my one admittedly painful semester of philosophy was worth it because now if ever I see names like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, or some other famous philosopher, I already have some knowledge about them, and I can use this knowledge in any way that the situation necessitates. The philosophy class gave me knowledge that is universal, something I have for the rest of my life and that I can apply to my own passions, whenever, if ever, I need to.
There is a valid argument that general education is a waste of time that distracts students from pursuing their chosen paths, but again, that argument assumes that the student only needs technical knowledge for their particular field to succeed. This may be true in a workplace setting, but in daily life, to read a newspaper and understand basic economic concepts, to be able to communicate on a basic level with a Spanish speaker (even if it’s only “hola” and “de nada”), has value too, and is often times just as useful as expertise in your chosen career. If, ultimately, someone feels that general education seems like a waste of time, then a liberal arts institution is probably not his or her best fit.