It’s Monday morning at 8 AM. I am not in my warm bed snuggling with my dogs. I am not waiting in line for my vanilla chai at Starbucks. I am not even in a class that I actually want to be taking. So, where am I? I am half-asleep in my biology lab, mindlessly copying down the notes on the slide with absolutely no idea what the professor is saying. Sound familiar?
Whether it’s a chemistry lab, history course, or an english seminar, we have all been forced to take classes that we have zero interest in. In fact, most of us spend roughly the first two years of our college careers simply banging out these graduation requirements until we can start taking classes for our actual majors. Which begs the question that students and scholars alike have been debating for years: should college students really be forced to take these “required” courses?
Universities make these courses required because it allows us to become well-rounded and educated young adults with a broad sense of how the world works, which does sound totally awesome; just let us decide how we will do that. In a world where a GPA can potentially make or break your college career, taking a class that risks a bad grade is incredibly stressful and nerve-wracking. Saying that, I am nearly certain that my future employer will not care what-so-ever about the grade I received in Intro to Biology, seeing as I am a Communication major. If I want to be an event planner one day, why do I need extensive knowledge on photosynthesis? Instead of spending roughly 75 hours per semester learning about chemical compounds and cells, shouldn’t I be taking courses that will actually benefit my future career choice?
Another aspect of these strict guidelines is that they help struggling underclassmen find their place in the world by forcing them to dabble in just about everything. But why make every single student suffer through these courses if they already know what they want to do? If someone is lost, by all means help them in their journey of self-discovery. But do not prohibit others from that same journey by forcing them to take courses that are not only disabling them from taking courses they are passionate in, but also are, quite frankly, a waste of their time.
My freshman year, I went to a college that had no general education requirements because I was certain I knew exactly what I wanted to do. After taking classes that I was genuinely interested to take, I realized that I was not as certain as I thought. I was inspired to change my major (a few times) and learned invaluable lessons along the way. I did not need rigid class requirements to further grow as a person and create my own path to happiness. I am not saying it would not be beneficial to provide guidelines to someone who is unsure of what classes to take; just make them optional. Not every person is the same type of learner.
Isn’t the whole point of receiving a higher education to gain knowledge in a subject of your choice in order to help you excel in your future career? Or to expand your horizons by enrolling in courses that you have always been interested in but never had the opportunity to take? College goes by incredibly fast, and in that brief time we are supposed to be figuring out who we are and what our place is in this world. Why waste any of that precious time (or, let’s get real here, money) in courses we irrevocably know will not influence, inspire, or impact us at all? If we are actively choosing to receive a college degree, then we should also be able to hand pick which courses we will and will not take, especially since they are far from free.
I know I will never be a biologist or an accountant, and I am perfectly okay with that. They have their place in this world and I have mine: with a pen, paper, and a hot chai tea. And no amount of required courses will change my mind.