As a college student, I’ve heard numerous complaints about the GERs (General Education Requirements) we must complete before graduating. “Why do I need to take a science with a lab when I’m a history major?” or “I’m studying Philosophy; what do I need a math class for?” These sentiments are often echoed by grade school students I’ve tutored (and even their parents!) – so I thought it might be useful to give my opinion of the situation, as I’ve explained it to friends, students, and parents.
Most students in grade school (and early in their college careers) don’t know exactly what they want to do yet and haven’t explored all of their interests. I took a Philosophy of Art class my freshman year of college, despite having no experience with philosophy classes or art classes. I found that I quite enjoyed the philosophical debate (though I wouldn’t want to pursue a career in the field) and that, while I don’t draw or paint, I enjoy studying artwork. Had I taken the typical approach of avoiding a class so different from my “usual” interests, I would have missed out of the experience. I have several friends who have decided their majors after having taken classes outside of what they expected to take – they took a chance with a new realm of classes, and they found that they quite enjoyed it and wanted to work in the field after college! Students typically have not been exposed to all of the options there are in the professional field; a variety of classes exposes students to subjects and methodologies they would previously have never been exposed to, which allows them to find the best fitting job for them.
Additionally, taking a variety of courses helps expand the mind. All disciplines, be they math, history, business, philosophy, psychology, etc. rely on different modes of thinking and different skills. By taking a course in each discipline, you expand your mind and increase your number of analytical tools. In order to creatively solve problems, you need a large “tool box” full of ways to look at problems – and taking courses in different subjects provides you with a foundation to do just that.
Most subjects are not entirely independent; that is, most “subjects” build off of or use skills from other subjects. While you may not use Algebra in your American History course, the logical way of working through a problem might be applied to an abstract history question. Knowing a little about human behavior from Psychology can help you better understand Linguistics – the study of language.
So why write this blog? To give a little understanding about why college and grade schools require a variety of courses. The benefits including exploring foreign subject matter, possible finding a new career path, and expanding the mind. But most importantly, taking a variety of subjects gives students a broader foundation to their education and gives them the skills to address problems of all sorts. Even if you or your student doesn’t like a particular subject and might not see it’s immediate benefit, every class will teach you a little something about yourself and the way you think and view the world!