I would like to see more emphasis on learning in higher education rather than just degree completion.
I think that higher education, especially at the undergraduate level, should focus on producing well rounded individuals. I’m not advocating for a dissolution of different majors or minors, or saying that students shouldn’t be allowed to specialize in an area of study that they are interested in, or think will benefit them better post graduation. What I do think is that while we have Gen Ed requirements they are not taken seriously enough by either the students, many of the instructors teaching them, or the University as a whole. They are treated as boxes that need to be checked in order to get a degree.
I have asked my students how they feel about Gen Ed requirements, and the majority of them are not enthused. I’ve heard the Gen Eds called “worthless,” “pointless,” “tedious,” “stupid,” and some of the more cynical students feel they are in place for no other reason than to add a year of college tuition. Furthermore, the majority of students I’ve talked to view college as a prerequisite to a getting a “better job,” and not as a place of learning.
I have been through a few different schools (academic, technical, military) and the one thing that’s been the same through all of them is that the real education comes on the job. Different employers, different units, different schools like things done a certain way, and you’ll have to learn their way once you get there.
Now, I understand that there is a base level of knowledge you are expected to have entering into the job market, and that’s why we have majors. However, having majors does not mean that we can’t or shouldn’t put more emphasis on taking classes outside of your major to become a more well rounded individual.
This culture of learning needs to begin inside of the institution.