General Education in the United States.
Except for a brief contraction in the early 1990s, the higher education system in the United States has been growing steadily since the late 1970s. Roughly half of all Americans now have attended college at some point in their lives, and roughly a quarter hold a postsecondary degree.(In the United Kingdom, by contrast, less than 15 percent of the population goes to university.) There are 14.5 million students in American colleges and universities today. In 1975 there were a little over 11 million; in 1965 there were fewer than 6 million. And yet when a person in higher education talk about its conditions and its prospects, doom is often in their voices. There are three matters these people tend to worry about: the future of liberal arts college; the “collapse”(as its frequently termed) of the academic disciplines, particularly the humanities; and the seemingly intractable disparity between the supply of Ph.D.s and the demand for new faculty. There are more college student than ever. Why does the system feel to many of the people who work in it as though it is struggling? (Menand, Louis pg 219)
Many people are flocking to college, but there not going there for a traditional liberal arts education. Liberal education is under siege. Critics, of whom there are many; call it an overpriced indulgence for the affluent few who do not have to worry about earning a living upon graduation. Fewer and fewer of today's undergraduates are pursuing the liberal arts, with most of them studying practical subjects like finance, marketing, real estate and pharmacy.(Rimer, Sara)
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Studying just the practical subjects makes very good sense to most people. Why bother studying things you won’t use in your day to day life. You employer wont need you to know algebra or calculus if you’re not dealing with mathematics. Liberal arts are a waste of time. The whole reason liberal arts was created was for the upper class that didn’t have to work, and could sit around all day and discuss random gibberish. During the Vietnam War it was used for draft dodgers. There is no need for liberal arts in today’s practical colleges.
Literature in general is a good example of how insignificant a liberal arts education can be to some. It seems clear that literature has become more and more a female activity. In bookstores, at conferences or public readings by writers, and even in university departments dedicated to the humanities, the women clearly outnumber the men. The explanation traditionally give is that middle-class women read more because they work fewer hours than men, and so many of them feel that they can justify more easily than men the time that they devote to fantasy and illusion. (Vargas Llosa, Mario pg 295) Studying liberal arts is not practical and will only slow you down in your race for career goals.
There is a flip side to the above mentioned argument. Schools that offer a liberal arts program always seem to have the same goals behind it. For example: “At Grace University we aim to give our students a cultured education, emphasizing the importance of literature, theater, music, art history, and language. Further, we feel it is important to have a general knowledge of science, mathematics; philosophy, geography, and religion. We also encourage our students to take advantage of our study abroad programs. Upon graduating from Grace University we feel our student will have a broad variety of knowledge that will secure their future success.”(This excerpt was taken from a survey conducted in class.)
Liberal arts educations are not worthless. They may seem worthless in the short term, but if you take a look at the life long picture you will see it’s worth the extra effort. As mentioned above a current employer might not need you to know algebra or other mathematics, but who knows what the future holds. One day you might find yourself looking for another career, and if you had taken that liberal arts education you would be better rounded and ready for many more tasks. Diversity is the key to maintaining a healthy career that is one of the reasons liberal arts can be extremely important in your development.
Life will not always be a classroom. Eventually you will have to leave school and venture out into the real world. Wouldn’t you like to have some training for the real world? I know I would. Liberal arts can provide you with some of the skills you will need in order to be a productive member of the society.
It’s not all just about making money; a person can not function productively that way in a society. There has to be culture for a society to prosper, if there is no culture there will be no society and there for we would all be back in cave man days. Its starting to sound redundant, but liberal arts gives you culture it opens your eyes to a more cultured and grown up atmosphere. The above are some of the reasons why people like me choose to be in a college that offers a liberal arts or general education program.
To sum things up I’ll share my personal thoughts. My experience with general education has been rather pleasant so far. General education classes for the most part are what people refer to as cake classes, which means easy grade. I personally like general education courses they help to round off a person’s knowledge. It also serves as a break from your major courses. Some people may like to jump right into there major to make money fast; my personal preference is to become the most intelligent person I can in college so that I have more to offer later on in life.(This paragraph was taken from an earlier work of mine.)
Gould, Stephen Jay, ed. The Best American Essays 2002. NY: Houghton Muflin, 2002.
Menand, Louis. “College: The End of the Golden Age.” Ed. Stephen Jay Gould. 219-
Rimer, Sara. “Justifying a Liberal Arts Education in Difficult Times.” New York Times 19 Feb. 2003: B7
Vargas Llosa, Mario. “Why Literature?” Ed. Stephen Jay Gould. 295-308