A lot of students I know tend to complain about their general education courses. Someone who is an English major might not see the point in taking a math or science class. Someone who is getting a degree in computer science might not understand why they need to take an art class. A friend of mine once complained that he had to knit a quilt in order to finish his degree in Law and Justice. So why do all colleges require such things?
For one thing, they give a student a broader, more well-rounded education. While it might be hard to see how knitting would help someone with a degree in Law and Justice, there are a lot of other general education classes that can be helpful to anyone. Things like computers, history, writing, and psychology can help people with their careers in almost any field, by helping them learn more about how the world works, how they interact with other people, and how to better communicate in everything from emails to reports. These sorts of skills will be valuable to people in any walk of life.
For another thing, people taking general education classes might find out about other fields they might be interested in. Some students, like myself, eventually change majors if their first major doesn’t suit them. Taking a wide variety of classes can give students a taste of different majors, so that they have an idea of the different options available to them. Even if a student doesn’t change majors, they might still find some other areas of interest which they can use to fill their general electives.
Students that learn more about a wider variety of fields will also be better able to work alongside people in different professions once they graduate and start their careers. Collaborative efforts will be much more successful if the people involved have knowledge of things outside of their main area of expertise. For example, a future lawyer, teacher, accountant, or other professional will still need to work with a computer specialist in most offices, and some knowledge of computers could help them to better communicate their needs.
A wider knowledge about the world can also help people outside of their careers. Knowledge about history and geography can help people to better understand the country we live in, and someone with a more well-rounded education is likely to better understand political issues and how they affect society. Then there’s the fact that any and all classes help teach students about teamwork, responsibility, deadlines, and other skills that are useful in all walks of life.
Finally, there’s the fact that even if someone gets a degree in a certain field, there’s no guarantee that they will get a job in that particular field. Even if you go to college with a certain career goal in mind, there is always the possibility that you will end up in a different job, based on what is available in the current job market. General education will help prepare you for a wider variety of jobs that might not be as specialized as others. Many office jobs require a core set of skills that are offered by any general education program: computer skills, research, reading, writing, teamwork, and organization. These general education skills will make you more valuable to a wider variety of potential future employers.
The versatile education offered by gen ed programs is an important backbone for any college education. Sometimes the classes might not seem to be up your alley, but they still hold a strong value for a student’s future, both in their career and in life.