Children ask a lot of “why” questions, like “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why do airplanes stay up?” Curiosity is a wonderful thing because it spurs innovation, but it is often short lived as people grow to forget the importance of learning. Some question education itself, as if they could somehow “move on.”
This change is summed up as, “Why am I learning this?” It starts off innocent and grows more audacious as we mature. In high school, anatomy is a bore and seen as a waste of time. Then college dawns, and General Education (GE) requirements bring on a déjà vu moment as a timeless question is asked yet again: “Why do I even need to take this class?”
Whether or not college students should be forced into taking GE courses remains a controversial topic. Many who are against taking GE courses say it is because it’s not relevant to their majors.
Wondering about a class’s relevance is good—it shows critical thinking—but it should not deter students from learning new subjects. The question regarding why a subject matters needs to be studied to be answered. Instead of moaning about reading American history, critically ask yourself why learning that subject matters and look for the answer instead of giving up on it, because learning isn’t useless, regardless of the subject.
No learning is a waste of time. Every sip of knowledge adds to the person you are shaping up to be.
Taking GE courses is not as burdensome as some make it out to be because four to five years of exploring and collecting information pays off, so why not explore different avenues and paths in college? College is an opportunity that comes and goes. Take advantage of the courses because pursuing a “well rounded” education is temporary. Specialization, in most cases, is for the rest of one’s life.
Although GE courses seem to be a repetition of high school, one possible explanation for that reinforcement may be due to dangerous stagnation of our high school education system in the past decade. A 2009 study reported in the Huffington Post found that U.S. students ranked 25th among 34 countries in math and science, behind nations like China, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Finland.
Last month, in a Washington Post article, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) announced that teenagers in the U.S. scored “average” in reading and science and “below average” in math, compared to 64 other countries and economies.
That pattern has not changed much since the PISA test was first given in 2000. The score is unacceptable given our country’s wealth and resources. It is clear that the U.S. is losing ground to global competitors and school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.
High school education in the U.S. is clearly not sufficient, so why rely on it for life? Although taking GE classes may seem a waste of time and money, ideally these years are the last two years spent on an eclectic education. Two years of GE courses is little in comparison to the rest of one’s life, and for some, it’s a last opportunity at education.
Education needs to be taken seriously in America, and colleges are doing a good job at providing their students with a high quality education that lower education systems fail to provide.
Life feels short because by the time one starts appreciating it, it’s halfway gone. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Never regret your education, even when you see no value in it at the time, because later, you’ll grow to appreciate it.