“Gen Eds” Missing the Mark

http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/09/09/438672718/john-oliver-says-u-s-students-learn-virtually-nothing-about-africa

In the past, John Oliver has discussed several downright depressing aspects of the American education system, while maintaining a comedic air.  During these segments, I often found myself laughing at his jokes while my lower lip quivered with frustration.  Is it so funny that myself and all other recent students and graduates are leaving public schools with mortgage-sized loan debt and massive holes in our education?  Of course, I can’t blame John Oliver for calling attention to this issue because it seems the public will only consider difficult topics and news coverage under the guise of comedy.  However, the public needs to consider these crucial social issues and John Oliver provides a great springboard to some more difficult conversations.

One of the greatest oversights in the public university system is the role of general education courses and requirements.  The intention of these courses is to provide a well-rounded education as well as supply incoming freshmen time to explore potential areas of study.  Although general education courses appear constructive and are thus widely used within public universities, they are ultimately wasting the money of our students by extending undergraduate degree requirements as well as not actually providing a well-rounded education.  This being said, I did find several general education courses very helpful to my overall academic experience, which complimented and informed my major course of study.

So here is what I propose:

  • We need to reconsider the education public middle and high schools provide as they should be picking up the general education slack.  Students should not be studying the continents of Africa and Asia for the first time at the age of 18. Period. Universities today are obsessed with routing out and discussing Eurocentric ideologies, while we are simultaneously teaching our kids to be western-minded by not providing a well-round education.
  • Students should be able to use general education courses to make useful, practical connections across areas of study so they can be well-rounded professionals in their particular area of study.  For me, that meant taking political science and geography courses in order to better understand literature from post-colonial Africa.
  • General education courses should not serve as a time filler for undecided students to remain undeclared for upward of two or three semesters.  Exploring new academic areas is exciting, but there is a point when students are simply being unwise with their debt.  Further, several studies, including one recently conducted by Colorado State, show that undeclared students are at a greater risk of dropping out than those that enter with a declared major.  Undeclared students are also more prone to graduate late and thus often leave with greater debt.
  • Finally, I would like to advocate (as I always do) for students to employ self-education methods.  The internet is constantly providing new, free ways to learn, so why not use them!

Duolingo: https://www.duolingo.com/

  • Language website that is particularly useful for beginners.

Babbel: http://www.babbel.com/

  • Although this website isn’t free, Babbel is very affordable and is excellent for all language level learners.

Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org/

  • Any level of math in a clearly organized format.

Memrise: http://www.memrise.com

  • I used Memrise to fill in my knowledge gaps of the world atlas, the city capitals of all 54 African countries, and to study GRE vocabulary.  Almost anything you want to know is on Memrise.  Check it out and find me.  taryn.gehman8c.  I’m a Memmoth.
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