General education is always on my mind — I love my job, and I love working with our thoughtful, hard-working and curious students! I get excited about the fact that, at our school, the students will get a new, and hopefully challenging and fun new experience. Perhaps they will discover a love of art, or read a piece of literature that will open their minds to new ideas. I’m lucky, as the majority of my students understand and appreciate the need for courses outside of their majors.
But I also see that this appreciation is becoming less and less the case. Students have always battled against taking Gen Ed courses, so that is nothing new. What does seem more widespread is how vocal students are becoming. I often search for interesting articles or news stories about Gen Ed, and more often than not, I will find at least three articles from college newspapers — and the tone is not positive. It goes beyond just displeasure about taking a particular course; there is a feeling that General Education actually hurts these students, by taking them away from their majors.
This is not a student problem, but one that must be addressed by faculty and administration. If so many students are feeling this way, then clearly, we are not doing a good enough job of explaining to students the need and the value in General Education. College should not just be about taking courses to get a job — it’s about becoming a whole person. A college really does have a duty to enrich students lives, not just prepare them for a career. If an institution simply thinks of students as consumers, then Gen Ed won’t matter. But if we do what is right and make college a thoughtful learning experience, we need to work harder to get the right message to our students.