Paper 4 Draft
General Education courses are an incredibly important part of the undergraduate academic plan at Penn State University. The required 45 credits give students leeway to expand their knowledge outside of their desired major. They have the opportunity to branch out and become a more well rounded, diverse individual. The three aspects being considered during this general education reform are exploration, integration (themes), and skills. Exploration credits are an excellent way for students to embrace academic freedom and discover interests they may not have otherwise come across. Skills courses are also crucial to the program because of their ability to create a strong set of knowledge that can be applied to concrete professional situations. Themes and integration, while a great idea for some, should become an optional route for students to follow if they desire a more structured general education curriculum. These courses are imperative to establishing a strong academic career; therefore they should be reformed to be as beneficial as possible for students.
Importance of General Education
General Education credits are implemented into academic plans to allow undergraduate students the opportunity to become well-rounded and make the most of their studies. They are allotted a certain number of credits out of their major-related courses to expand their knowledge and make them more diverse students. While the courses within a specific area of focus are very important, general education courses can serve just as much purpose. They can enlighten students and open doors of interest that they never would have found otherwise. To some, these courses appear to be a waste of time or an inconvenience. Despite this opinion, these courses are crucial for the expansion of studies and establishing a strong knowledge base. General education courses can help students later on when it comes to finding a job and becoming a strong candidate for it. A student with a wide variety of knowledge is going to appear to be well-rounded and dedicated to their studies. A perfect example of this is Dr. Jessica O’Hara from Penn State University who had a strict focus in English, yet decided to take a marketing class. This class played a big role in why she was hired for one of her job interests. Her small background in marketing made her that much more qualified for the job. General education credits are so imperative to the undergraduate program, which is why they need to be approached in the best way possible.
Exploration serves as the sole purpose as to why these courses were implemented into the curriculum. There are hundreds of classes that students can take to obtain the required 45 general education credits at Penn State. This leaves room for them to take virtually any class they have an interest in. Ranging from classes focusing on African American studies all the way to music and theater. The variety is untouchable and gives the students so much freedom to do whatever they want. It is beneficial to students to have credits for exploration because they can discover their interests outside of their major. If they don’t enjoy a class they take, they have the opportunity to take a completely different one later on. Students have the chance to expand their horizons to courses that don’t have immediate instrumental value1.
General education courses should be teaching students and giving them the education they need to thrive in the current economy. It is crucial for students to learn writing, reading, and speaking skills in order to be successful in professional situations. It is also absolutely critical to develop at least background knowledge about communicating through various digital and traditional methods. Lastly, they need to gain an understanding and learn how to process colossal amounts of data and information and apply that knowledge to advanced situations2. Currently, students at Penn State are required to take English 015, CAS 100, and English 202 for their area of discipline to fulfill the need for obtaining writing, speaking, and reading skills. These courses work to push students and teach them how to present themselves well and professionally. The potential reform for these courses is to merge English 015 and CAS 100 together to create one year long course. This idea would be beneficial to students because they could develop writing, comprehension, and speaking skills all together. With the grouping of these classes, all of the necessary English components can be tied together, creating a stronger and more developed skills base. Aside from English credits, other skills courses should remain a part of the general education program. They show to be just as necessary and useful for real world application regardless of what major a student pursued. As Long stated in his interview, the priority of the general education courses is to provide students with a plethora of knowledge that can be applied and aid in living a fulfilling life1.
Themes and integration are a strong idea for the general education reform. Christopher Long expressed his concern that the general education curriculum is not really much of a curriculum at all. The idea is to establish more structure and generate a path for students so that taking these credits would have a curriculum feel1. Grouping together different types of general education courses, such as humanities and social and behavioral sciences, with the same overall concept would be a great way to create a solid focus while also exploring various types of studies. For example, a student could pick a theme revolving around love and sex. Within that theme they could take Philosophy 014(GH): Philosophy of Love and Sex, Biology 117 (GN): Biology of Sex, and Psychology 422: Human Sexuality3. This creates a variety of studies while still retaining an overall theme in common. That being said, it may also take away from the freedom of general education that some students really appreciate. The opinion of this idea would vary from student to student, which is why this integration reform should be optional. From an English 015 in class deliberation, many students agreed that that themes should be implemented because of the focus they’d create for general education. However, a majority also decided that they would have no desire to choose a theme from a list and take the courses within that program. They enjoy the flexibility Penn State offers and feel they would benefit less from a structured general education program5. With themes and integration as an optional program, students can then make their own decision based on what they feel will benefit them most in the long run.
The general education reform needs to be approached in such a way that will most benefit students. Allowing a significant amount of the 45-credit program to remain open for exploration purposes will allow the students to expand their horizons and obtain a wide range of knowledge. Exploration exposes students to new interests that they may not have found otherwise. Branching out into studies outside of a given major will help develop diversity in their knowledge, which can easily benefit them in the long run. The other very important part of general education courses is establishing a strong skills set. Learning and understanding different skills, such as writing, reading, speaking, processing data, and communication, is so imperative to the goal of empowering students to live a fulfilling life. Skills courses will benefit students in professional situations and prepare them for any situation they may face. The last focus, themes and integration, should become an option for students. This should not be mandatory because every student enjoys learning differently. If they desire the freedom of general education courses, it is available to them. However, if they’re looking for a more structured program, they will have the choice to pick a themed path to follow. Overall, general education courses are meant to create strong students that are well exposed to various studies and prepared for professional situations.
“General Education Reform at Penn State.” GenEd Matters, 15 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <http://www.cplong.org/2014/04/general-education-reform-at-penn-state/>.
In class deliberation