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GUVERCIN: Exposure of core requirements provide notable benefits

Opinion Column: The Bigger Picture

Almost every college student has cursed the institution of general education or core requirements at least a few times in their life. I mean, why do you have to take extra math classes when you are an art history major? 

Core requirements are tedious, excessive and seem like a complete waste of time because they usually have nothing to do with the field one is actually pursuing. Furthermore, especially when one gets to college, these extra courses take up a lot of time and money that could be contributed to taking classes that are related to one’s major or career goals. 

Essentially, there is a long list of shortcomings to the general education and core requirement institutions within the American education system. But, there are also a few vital factors that make it a necessary and highly beneficial component of one’s academic career, which ultimately outweighs the inconveniences.

When I first arrived at college, I was astounded by the long list of core courses that I had to fulfill in order to graduate. I initially had a perception that college is based entirely on one’s major, and I was excited to indulge myself in a plethora of psychology and philosophy courses. 

Like many other students, I let out sighs of annoyance every time I had to accommodate my schedule to fit a core class and sacrifice some other classes that seemed infinitely more interesting. By now I have taken a variety of courses in fields like anthropology, environmental science, ITI, political science and statistics, which I would have otherwise never have been exposed to. 

While I cannot say that I loved every second of those courses, I have come to genuinely appreciate them in terms of my education and well-roundedness. While I was calculating Factorial ANOVAs and studying macroevolutionary processes, wondering how the heck I was ever going to use this information in my life, I did not realize just how much my repertoire of random knowledge and critical thinking processes had developed. 

Looking back, I am actually glad I had the opportunity to experience fields outside of my own and avoid limiting myself to a very limited scope of study. Even though I do not remember everything I learned in those courses and suffered many nights trying to drill some of the material into my brain, I cannot count how many times I was able to enrich my conversations with others by being able to relate to something within their field or share something new with them, or how much I have benefitted from forcing myself to engage in activities that were outside of my comfort zones.

The core requirement system also provides an opportunity for one to take courses that can potentially shape the rest of one's academic or career goals by giving one access to areas that one was never exposed to. Similar to many other college students, I have met people who have even changed their major or decided to minor in a field that their core requirements had covered. 

Furthermore, I personally found it a weirdly nice break at times to be able to sit down and solve a few problems, memorize formulas or interpret graphs in scientific articles instead of having to read long philosophy papers while writing pages and pages of essays. It provides the student an opportunity to shift their activity and focus into areas that are distinct from what they are primarily exposed to and subsequently be able to develop their critical thinking skills. 

None of this is to say that the general education system and core requirements in schools are perfect and should be universally applied. There is no question that these systems have a lot of room for improvement, especially in terms of student experience and providing courses that actually promote the idea of well-rounded thinking rather than forcing individually useless information onto students. 

Academic institutions can focus on expanding the scope of which fields and classes can apply to a specific core, encouraging professors and teaching assistants to adjust their methods to accommodate the objective of addressing society and institutions at large, and making it easier for students to fit these courses into their schedules while also focusing on their target fields.

Nevertheless, core requirements can be significantly beneficial for those who see them as learning opportunities rather than inconveniences. So, the next time you are writing a long essay on archetypes and themes found in a book, or converting decimals to hexadecimals while evaluating your life and whether college is even worth it, just know that you will have gained at least something as little as a conversation starter to something as significant as a strong background on a certain topic in a different field.

Dilara Guvercin is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double  majoring in philosophy and psychology. Her column, "The Bigger  Picture," runs on alternate Fridays.


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