Are GERs Really Necessary?

By Rachel Chen, Opinions Columnist

Furman University, along with hundreds of public and private universities across the nation, have a set of courses students are required to fulfill before graduating and receiving their bachelor’s degree, called General Education Requirements. This is, of course, in addition to the classes students must enroll in to receive credit for their respective majors. Every student must take courses throughout the humanities and the sciences, taking at least one lab course and obtaining proficiency in at least one foreign language. Added together, General Education Requirements make up 14 of the 32 classes that students must take to graduate.

Students not in favor of this system argue that they should not be forced to take classes that they are not interested in, especially classes they are paying a lot of money for; each course costs students approximately $3,600. Others argue that their required humanities courses do not benefit their intended science majors or that their lab credits take too much time away from their humanities majors. Why would a student studying to be doctor need to acquire art skills? Why would a future museum curator ever need to know how to solve advanced math equations?

While all of these disputes are valid, I am inclined to believe that the GERs were designed for a reason; they strive to give students a well-rounded education. Students need to do more than just acquire the skills they are interested in developing initially, the key word here being initially. While I cannot personally lay out every way that every GER can apply to every student’s life, major, or future career, I can draw on my own personal experience in order to make a case in favor of the GER’s.

Prior to arriving at Furman University, I had very little idea of what I actually wanted to do for the rest of my life. Of course, I had some thoughts that skittered through my mind in the latter half of my high school years, but none that called to me strongly. Many of my students and classmates had found their passions. Why could I not find mine? Of course, not every dream job out there is what my mom would call “practical.” Some are what my father assume would eventually lead to “living on the streets in a box.” For people like me, who come into college without knowing their “life calling,” GERs can be a great way to discover our passions.

Let us be honest: unless you came to Furman to become a philosophy major, you probably did not think about taking an introductory philosophy course.  I initially took “Introduction to Philosophy” for my Ultimate Questions requirement, but looking back now, I see the course’s value. It can be applied to virtually any major offered, developing strong critical thinking and argumentation skills, which can be useful in all work settings. Philosophy also challenges students to think outside the box, to wrestle with issues beyond our Instagram filters, and even to ask bigger questions in life that we have yet to answer.

Though they can be a pain to keep track of on top of everything else, GERs also have other benefits. They give us the motivation to learn things outside of our comfort zones. What other time in our lives can we pick up film photography or learn about completely different cultures just for the sake of it? With the necessary learning facilities at our disposal and with expert professors who have studied their subjects for years, there is no reason to step outside the boundaries of our initial interests and explore other fields to enhance our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. In short, GERs give us the opportunity to make the most of our college careers, while we have the time, and are living off our parent’s paychecks. We may not be so lucky in the future. Let us take advantage of this opportunity now.

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