Tag Archives: course requirements

Why I Didn’t Value a Liberal Arts Education (And Why I Do Now)

I declared my major when I applied to Undergrad U. In fact, I rarely use the word “declared” because it was more like “picked”. I looked at the majors available, picked one I liked, and wrote it on my application. Done.

Because I arrived at school knowing my major, I absolutely hated all of the general education courses I was required to take. I spread them out over my time at Undergrad U, mixing them in with courses required for my major. I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up..why did I need to take all these extra classes that had NOTHING to do with my major?

To be fair, my major didn’t leave a lot of room for experimenting with non-required courses. I took the gen eds required of me – a composition course, a psychology course, some course about scientific literature…ugh. None of those courses appealed to me and I didn’t bother looking to see what else was out there.

What makes this whole situation worse was that I knew the “supposed” benefits of those required general education courses and a liberal arts education in general. As I gave prospective students tours of Undergrad U, I spoke with great enthusiasm about how our course requirements ensures that all the future musicians, scientists, and artists would be well-rounded individuals upon graduation. I just didn’t believe it. Or care about it.

When I arrived at Grad School State, I felt so behind my classmates. Undergrad U had less gen eds than most schools AND I tried my best to get out of as many as I could. Most of my classes had been project-based and I felt I couldn’t keep up with all of the readings and the papers and presentations. But still, I didn’t think it had anything to DO my lack of “well rounded” courses, I just thought it was a side effect of my major.

Now that I work at a college, I frequently hear about courses that are offered at PDFM U as well as other schools. And you know what? They sound INTERESTING. I would LOVE to take some of these courses. I actually LIKE learning about things – so long as I’m not under pressure to write papers and take tests and get good grades. I sometimes wonder that if I had waited to choose my major and had more freedom to select courses that interest me if I would have wound up with a different major. If I would have had learned different skills.

But then I remember that I’m older now and think much differently than I did back then…which means just like I hear my students complain now, I too would be complaining about these random course requirements. Maybe it takes a certain type of student to enjoy a liberal arts college while they are a student.

If somebody came up to you and said, “Hey here’s a ton of money, go get another degree!” what do you think you would study? What type of school would you choose? Of course, this is purely for pleasure, otherwise I’d be going to trade school because plumbers and electricians make a lot more money than live on student affairs professionals…just saying. If I could do it again for pleasure, I think I’d study literature. Maybe. Depending on the courses offered at the school. I miss reading. I used to read for fun constantly, but college bashed that out of me. Some of the readings my students have to do sound so interesting! And I’ve heard of colleges with Harry Potter lit classes…

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