Recently a tweet suggesting cutting the cost of college by cutting gen-ed classes made its rounds on social media. The viral tweet read, “If we hate the cost of college so much, let’s get rid of all gen eds that are unrelated to a major. Why do I have to take a music class when my major is meteorology? It makes no sense and is a huge waste of money. HS is for broad education; college is for specialization.”
Reception of the tweet varied. Some praised the idea, calling for action for the sake of a cheaper education. Others, however, criticized it for ignoring the value of a well-rounded, liberal arts education.
Berry being a liberal arts college, we all have endured four years of foundation requirements and classes to ensure we graduate with the desired 124 credit hours. No matter your major, we’ve all shared moments of annoyance and frustration over these required foundation courses. Some of our worst grades have come from random astronomy or anthropology courses we took just to fulfill credit hours. In those moments, staying up late to study for a final, working tirelessly over homework, meeting up for group projects, all for a class you know doesn’t apply to your major, it feels more aggravating than ever. However, in the long run, Berry’s liberal arts education is more valuable than you give it credit for.
By being required to take classes outside of our major, we are exposed to different schools of thought and insight from our various professors and peers. Cross-curricular education allows us to pull from the different classes we take, applying concepts and information from one discipline to another. In the end, we’re learning from and adding to a larger pool of insight than we would ever be exposed to if we were only pulling from one discipline.
A liberal arts education instills and teaches its students a variety of soft skills. Soft skills are something that employers appreciate greatly but that aren’t taught through one specific course curriculum. The ability to communicate and collaborate with others, challenge conventional thinking and adapt to certain situations are just some of the soft skills 44 percent of executives surveyed think Americans in the workforce are lacking, according to Marymount University. These skills are learned through cross curricular experiences, learning from your peers and being forced to think critically outside your comfort zone.
Even outside the classroom, Berry’s liberal arts education gives us the opportunity to continue to learn in a multitude of capacities such as our on-campus jobs and cultural events.
Berry’s LifeWorks program allows us to perform jobs which may be outside of our skillset or even interest. However, in doing these jobs, we learn valuable skills outside of our own personal career aspirations. In the end, those additional skills can greatly enhance our ability to perform the tasks we truly desire to do.
Cultural events are the bane of some students’ existence; more than a handful of seniors are currently attending every CE credit they can to fulfill requirements. But as annoying as it can be to be required to attend 24 CE credits, the information presented and speakers brought can be incredibly insightful.
This tweet essentially argues that our ability to gain a well-rounded education should be halted at the mere age of 18, that after college, we should be hyper-focused on our one career path and we shouldn’t put effort into learning anything else. Affirming this reduction in education for the sake of a cheaper cost is more of an excuse than a valid argument. The topic of concern shouldn’t be to reduce education for the sake of cost. Instead, the conversation should be on why higher education is so pricey in the first place and why it’s so necessary for our continuing development.
Our capability to learn and take on new information isn’t shut off once we graduate high school. The BBC reported that, where neurologists once believed the brain was developed by 18 years old, they are now stating that cognitive and emotional development persist on to your mid to late 20s. This scientific fact alone advocates for the need to continue to learn and take on new challenges, college being the perfect time to do so.
Education’s sole purpose isn’t to add to our economic capabilities. Sure, we pay to go to college in order to get a job and to support ourselves. But, along the way, the process of learning is one that is in constant adaptation and enhancement to our surroundings. Higher education is about self-enrichment and becoming a socially aware, knowledgeable member of society. If we were to only ever take a certain number of classes specific to one job, we would only know the needed information for that one job. Carrying an array of knowledge of multiple subjects, having had different experiences and tried new things, makes us more confident and capable to exist in a world of too many different backgrounds and interests to count.
Everything we do on campus, whether it be your on-campus job, the theatre class you have to take, the club you are part of or the CE credits you scramble to collect, all add to our personal and professional development. What may seem like a waste of time or money at certain points throughout these four years is all just building blocks in what is to become a liberal arts education. In the professional world, these attributes speak to our capabilities. As employees, we won’t be constrained to doing one task and one task only. Instead, we will be able to enter the work force, bringing a variety of skills and wide array of knowledge with us.
We should reframe our mindset concerning higher education and even education as a whole. To strictly view education as a means to participate in the work force, a necessary step to land you a job, is to restrict yourself from years of personal and cultural enrichment. While at Berry, don’t take for granted the opportunities you’re presented through a liberal arts education. No matter how tedious foundation courses or CE credits seem to be, they truly add value to your own intelligence, and not the monetary kind.