As a current Penn State student as well as a Penn State dual-enrollment participant in high school, I have had a great deal of personal experience with Penn State University’s general education department. In general, I disagree with the idea that college students should have to pay for general education credits. Though it makes sense that students should be well-rounded upon entering the world as an independent thinker, I do not believe that universities should have the right to charge students to take classes outside of their desired career fields. Through my time at Penn State, I have taken general education credits such as Greek and Roman Mythology, Sociology, and International Relations which, though interesting, have little to no use in my desired field: aerospace engineering. If universities do indeed have to force unwanted classes on students, the courses should be free of charge. Though this is incredibly unrealistic for today’s money-oriented world, I see it as the only fair option.
That being said, to me, Options 1 and 3 of the General Education Reform hold promise. I do believe that, if general education credits are indeed necessary, they should offer the greatest amount of exploration for students as possible. For example, the classes I chose to take have given me a greater understanding of the world, successfully achieving Penn State’s mission to develop a well-rounded student. At the same time, however, it is my personal opinion that communication skills are the top most priority for any potential employee. Again, the classes I took allowed me to improve my personal skills through class presentations and group projects. In this way, I believe that an even split or combination of general education credits between exploration and skill based classes or ideas would be the best approach for reform. However, Option 2 concerns me greatly. In my opinion, integration of classes as a single theme defeats the purpose of general education. By simply making students take classes within a focused set of topics, Penn State would not be broadening students’ minds to a world of knowledge. Instead, they would be limiting students’ knowledge by focusing more broadly on one subject. From the descriptions of the themes, though they value interdisciplinary work, they sound too similar to minors for me to comprehend changing the system. The worst part of this option, though, is that the benefits are slim. As I have stated, themes appear to be only slightly more general than minors are today. How, then would taking classes focused solely on a theme benefit a student more than the student’s independently decided minor? Overall, I do not see any value in Option 2, but Options 1 and 3 could be combined to create a better, more organized establishment of Penn State’s general education.