University must revise Gen Ed program

This semester, I dedicated hours every week — in lectures, labs and observation hours — to a class completely and utterly unrelated to my major. I spent precious time, money and energy on The Universe (ASTR 100) to satisfy one of my General Education requirements that I need to graduate — not with a science or math degree, but with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a minor in journalism.

Does this situation really make sense?

Christina Ellis | Daily Trojan

Needless to say, many students have a bone to pick with the General Education requirements. Frustrations run high when students who are already pressed for time and money are forced to take classes that have next to nothing to do with their majors.

The goals of the General Education program are commendable and should be preserved. But it’s time for the program to actually complement the goals of the students that it is meant to serve.

The university should tailor General Education requirements to students’ majors. A re-envisioning of the requirements would show a better understanding of the reality of student life, both before and after graduation.

Writing and math are two forms of communication fundamental to almost every career. We are all required to take writing classes that relate to our chosen disciplines. Why shouldn’t math be treated the same way?

As a Spanish and journalism student, I won’t use what I learned in astronomy after graduation. But what if all journalism students were required to take a statistics class? Journalists need to be able to understand and analyze numbers so they can better communicate the meaning of a study — or any math-related topic — to an audience that might not know statistics.

For majors even further removed from the math and science sphere, such as theatre or fine arts, an introductory accounting or finance course should be required. A basic understanding of finances would prove invaluable for any major after graduation, especially if that major isn’t known for being financially practical.

General Education requirements should include major-specific requirements that complement students’ areas of study. They shouldn’t be mere distractions to the completion of a major.

The General Education Program web page boasts five principal goals that revolve around helping students become well-rounded, well-educated persons armed with a wide range of skills and knowledge. But the program’s last goal, “To encourage a passion for learning,” is the most important. Currently, the program is not fulfilling this goal. I would love to be passionate about astronomy, but I can’t be when I think about the Spanish and journalism classes I could be taking instead.

This shouldn’t be another problem students gripe about year in and year out. Our four years at USC go quickly, and our time here shouldn’t be wasted.


Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish.

7 replies
  1. B
    B says:

    Elena, as you said in your article, you are a journalism minor, which clearly means you have an interest in journalism. The General Education program makes you a more well rounded student and person, it will probably help you if you decide to pursue a career in journalism. You will have a better understanding of more topics and will be able to write about things that some other people may not be able to write about. I don’t know what you want to pursue but I think that you need to be open minded about things. I have read a few of your other articles and it seems like you have your mind set and you aren’t open to other opinions. Look at all of the different sides of an issue. Not just one.

  2. rationalize
    rationalize says:

    The people who make the world go round–space shuttles that fly into space; physicians who perform organ transplants; computer science engineers who develop ubiquitious goods like i-products; electrical engineers who use electromagnetic energy to convert them to mechanical–make the world an easier place to live in. Sure, gen-ed classes can lead one to discover new avenues/approaches to thinking. But focusing on STEM disciplines is far more important than frivolous gen-ed classes. Gen-ed classes are “required” so that ultra-intelligent people, like yours truly, don’t become “callous automatons.” I use the allegory of “Karate Kid” when Mr. Miyagi adamantly instructed Daniel-san to perform wax-on, wax-off…You will see the big picture of your rigorgous STEM major after you overcome the abstract grasp/analyzation/algorithms in them. Bullshyt degrees are insignificant, and hence they should be on a pass/no pass basis….utterly worthless.

  3. A
    A says:

    Elena, though the selection of courses within the GE program can be open to revision, I think your approach to course selection is very much to blame as well. Most students ask around for the easiest GE courses and take them just to get their requirements over with. However, that is not the purpose of the program. I think many of the gripes people have can be alleviated by careful course selection. If the ASTR course is not of interest to you, simply don’t take it and select something that you are actually interested in and may gain knowledge and insight from. Higher education is about learning, not about the final letter grade on your transcript.

  4. Another thought
    Another thought says:

    The USC 2011 Undergrad salutatorian graduated with a double major: music performance–oboe and cell biology. She discovered that class while fulfilling a general ed requirement. While undergrads journey on that trek for a passion for learning, one never knows what you will discover. Perhaps for you, astronomy was not it but you never know sometime in your future life when what you learned in that class, just might come to some use in your life.

  5. Hindsight is 50/50
    Hindsight is 50/50 says:

    Elena — I bet Steve Jobs had the exact same thoughts when he took calligraphy in college.

    • rationalize
      rationalize says:

      You’re negating the fact that Steve Wozniack, a CSCI major, laid the foundation for Apple’s inception. Hardware & software development cannot ensue because of some bullshyt, new-age thinking, artsy endeavor–caligraphy. “Creativity” is overrated; the Bible is “creative” when it explains the inception of the creation of the universe.

  6. Anon
    Anon says:

    The goal of the General Education program is to expand your horizons. As a USC undergrad I’m glad USC gives us the chance to take classes that are utterly different from my major. Going to college, despite what most people think, is not about getting a job. It’s about becoming an educated and well-rounded individual. While the GenEd program has its shortcomings for sure, developing critical thinking skills in fields not immediately associated with your major will not only prove a worthwhile experience, but you will without a doubt find that your job requires you to think outside the box.

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