Students often lament about their required history classes. They even go so far as to say they “hate” the area of study for its lack of interesting subject matter. Firstly, most of those students have yet to take a class from one of the regular history faculty at Washburn. Secondly, it does not seem like these students have had the explanations required of them as to its importance of being a proper citizen. History, along with a majority of General Education courses, is absolutely vital to making sure students are prepared to participate in society and in their government. How can one cast a vote without understanding what has gone into that vote and what will become because of it? Without knowing it, universities are creating a generation of ignorant Americans who will be more detrimental to the rights and freedoms we hold so dear than any terrorist attack.
General Education helps students comprehend the world around them. History leads to a realization of why the country is what it is today and, often, what will happen in the near future. Government allows students to participate more intelligently in their government. Economics is not just for business majors, either. Studying economics allows recognition of motivating factors of much of domestic and global policy.
Admittedly, these subjects, the natural sciences and mathematics are not everyone’s forte. Indeed, that is why those enrolled at a university pick a specific major. However, that does not, under any circumstances, mean students should ignore subjects outside their subject. Quite often, subjects are all tied together in various ways. By understanding the outside forces playing with one’s own major, one can understand that major all the better.
I have heard whispers of doing away with much of General Education. It is my hope that those are truly just whispers and rumors, rather than actual ideas.
I can sympathize with the plight of some teachers of General Education classes. I have seen my fellow classmates fall asleep, text their friends or play on Facebook during class. Nevertheless, as columnist Cal Thomas said in a Sept. 18 column, “students don’t learn what colleges don’t teach.” University should be about getting a full, well-rounded education-not getting students out of here as fast as humanly possible. A post-secondary education should not just be about cranking out more robotic middle managers. It should be about teaching students how to think and analyze.
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute released a study on American colleges’ teaching of American history and institutions. According to the Web site, www.americanciviliteracy.com, “college seniors know astoundingly little about America’s history, political thought, market economy and international relations.” The study was done on college students at institutions like Harvard, Yale and the University of Notre Dame. This is absolutely unacceptable. English, history, government and economics are cornerstones to citizenship.
Students at all universities should have to take full semesters of these subjects and learn how they apply to their studies of interest. Students should learn how and why their government works. To ignore this vital part of our education would be detrimental to the freedoms and liberties fought for by thousands of men and women throughout the course of United States’ history. If one wants to support the troops, they need only look as far as a history book.
To read the study in more depth, visit the Web site at www.americancivicliteracy.org.