For students seeking a bachelor’s degree at the University of Indianapolis, taking courses that fulfill the requirements of the “General Education Core” is mandatory. According to the UIndy website, this curriculum is made up of First Year Learning Goals, Distribution Areas, Competency Areas and other requirements, such as attending Lecture/Performance events and completing a Spring Term course. It is not unusual to hear a student complain about having to take a course that fulfills a general education requirement. Some argue that taking these courses, in addition to required courses within a major and/or minor, is a waste of time and money. I believe that general education courses, commonly referred to as “gen-eds,” are absolutely necessary for a well-rounded education and are beneficial to students.
The Distribution Areas that undergraduate students must take at least one course in are literature, history, natural sciences, social science, religion, philosophy & ethics, fine arts/theory, fine arts/applied, global awareness and experiencing cultural differences. While this seems like a lot of additional classes that one must take, I do think that the university is pretty flexible and fair. I was able to fulfill some of these areas, such as literature and global awareness, with credits I earned from AP classes in high school. Additionally, I did not have to take Spanish 101 to complete the Modern Language part of the Competency Areas requirement because I was able to test out of it with my knowledge from taking four years of Spanish in high school. So, while there are quite a few courses to take, you are rewarded for work you may have already put in before coming to college.
Even if you are not someone that was able to get out of some of these requirements, I do not think that gen-eds should be seen as a burden. Of course, it is completely fair to just not like a certain topic. Personally, I am not the best at science courses, and I dread taking a natural sciences course. But I am glad that I have the opportunity to. I think that gen-eds are a great way to broaden your horizons and gain knowledge that you may not be able to get in classes that go toward your major. For those not planning to get a graduate degree, gen-eds are probably the last opportunity you have to learn about multiple different subjects in a structured setting. And while that knowledge may seem useless now, you never know how it might benefit you later.
I have found that taking gen-eds outside of my major has actually helped me when I am doing the work for my major. I am double majoring in creative writing and professional writing, which obviously means that I do a lot of writing in both fiction and nonfiction. Taking classes about religion, social science and philosophy has given me knowledge that I use in my stories and essays. I find inspiration in these topics even though they are not my main interests.
I also believe that taking courses in many of these distribution areas leads to personal growth. For example, to complete my social science requirement, I took an anthropology class. At first, I was not excited about it. I thought it would be boring, and I saw it as a waste of time on my schedule. That class ended up teaching me a lot of things about the world that I had never considered before. I learned about capitalism, poverty, racism and several other topics. I am so grateful that I was able to learn about these subjects through a new lens, and I truly believe that what I learned made me a better, smarter and more empathetic person.
Gen-eds are extremely important, even if sometimes they are boring or not your favorite subject. They teach students a great lesson: Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whether you like it or dislike it—try to learn something. They are an obligation that I believe should never go away.