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Why Do I Have to Take General Education Courses?

By Ana Carolina Aguiar

Everyone has had a friend who complains about taking a class that is unrelated to their degree. Maybe even a friend who didn’t pay attention in a class because it was only an obligation to graduate. Let’s be honest: you were probably that friend at one point.

Going through this experience is just a part of college. General education courses are required, whether we like it or not. These courses are the first step toward getting your degree. 

Gen Ed courses, also known as core curriculum, are the foundation of an undergraduate degree. According to Unbound, a website by Pearson Education, most general education requirements cover about 42 to 60 college credits per semester, which is about one-third to half of a bachelor's degree. 

Usually, these classes are English, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

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However, the question all students are asking is: are general education classes necessary for a college education? 

Dr. Gloria Schaab is a professor of theology, chair of the department of theology and philosophy, and the associate dean for general education. She believes general education courses are necessary for students.

“General education courses challenge students to develop critical and creative thinking and to engage the diversity of thought and perspectives represented not only by the arts, humanities, and sciences, but also by students and professors of different disciplines, backgrounds, experiences, and values,” said Dr. Schaab. 

Dr. Schaab also explains that as a liberal arts institution, Barry provides a comprehensive education to students. This education “addresses all aspects of the human person,” according to Dr. Schaab.

She believes general education courses achieve this.

In response to the idea that general education courses do not fit into student’s respective disciplines, Dr. Schaab notes that students do not live their lives within the boundaries of one discipline.

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“[We live in] an increasingly complex world that demands innovative, effective, and ethical responses to a wide variety of questions and problems,” said Dr. Schaab. 

She believes the general education experience helps students with their responses to these problems. 

“[General education] stimulates the individual and communal transformation that leads our students to informed action, social justice, and collaborative service that is central to the mission of Barry University and that is needed by the world in which we live,” she said.

Liam Bouza, a sophomore English and theater student, agrees. 

I actually do think it’s necessary. I think that for us to be well-rounded human beings we need to know at least a little bit about what we might be talking about in the future,” said Bouza.

However, Bouza has had experience hearing her classmates complain about general education courses. She understands these complaints. 

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“There are too many Gen Eds and because of them I know that some students graduate later instead of in their four years,” explains Bouza. “Sometimes it does prevent us from taking important major classes. If your major doesn’t require a high level of math, why take three math classes?”

Dr. Ana M. Jimenez, professor and assistant director of the biology department, believes the current pandemic is the perfect explanation as to why each student should take a general education biology class.

Students should leave college with some basic knowledge of how the biological world functions,” she said. “How many of [you] knew that a virus is not really alive before the COVID-19 pandemic? It requires a host!"

Dr. Jimenez believes the current pandemic gives students the opportunity to think outside of their respective disciplines.

“In these times of social-distancing, all of us have been asked to make professional decisions that involve ’thinking outside the box,’” she said.

Mathematics professor Dr. Lubomir P. Markov agrees with Dr. Jimenez that general education is important. 

We are a Catholic institution which is grounded in the liberal arts tradition, and the liberal arts tradition is precisely the idea that students have to take some classes from a set of time-honored subjects,” said Dr. Markov. 

The consensus seems to be that general education courses are a key portion of Barry’s curriculum. Students are encouraged to make the best of it, considering how these courses could positively impact their future.

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