The power of gen eds

MACKENZIE MARTIThere are students across the country who groan when they hear the phrase “general education requirement.” We may pick a major in science so that we never have to think about Shakespeare and his soliloquies. Or maybe we pick an English major so that we never have to consider what entropy actually is. Some of us might pick our major so that we will never have to see math again, and some of us pick our major so that all we have to see is math. Right? That’s the point of picking a major, so that you can study what interests you; so that you can study what you are passionate about. And because of this, many of us ask, why do we need to take gen eds?

I asked myself the same question when I was a freshman in college. Now that I finally had the power to choose what classes I took, why would I fill my schedule with classes that sounded decidedly uninteresting? So I filled my schedule with astronomy, chemistry, biology, calculus—things that I personally enjoyed. When I do take a gen ed, I begrudgingly add it to my schedule, reading the description of the class and secretly hoping they won’t use iClickers. Last semester I enrolled in an introductory geography course titled “Geography of Developing Countries.” I chose to take it because it fulfilled one of my general education requirements, and because the geography class I preferred did not fit into my schedule. 

When the semester started, this was definitely not the class that I looked forward to attending (and if you’re wondering, they did use iClickers). But throughout the semester I ended up loving that class more than any other. There was a lot of reading—which I was not used to—and the class covered many political and economic topics, which aren’t my specialty. Regardless, I found myself more and more interested in the class and everything we talked about. I loved learning about other countries, other people, the problems that countries face, and how history has shaped the world that we see today. By the end of the semester, I was so intrigued by the material that I found myself thinking about it frequently. I decided to declare a geography minor—all because of one general education requirement that I wasn’t even looking forward to initially.

What I’m saying is that while it is not always easy to see, gen eds have their place. They teach us things we would never learn otherwise. They allow us to get outside of our comfort zone and experience material that is different from our majors. Some of them might fade into the background, but some of them can shape us into better people, giving us an opportunity we wouldn’t have had if we weren’t required to take them. And I think that’s worth it.

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