Purpose of General Education

Purpose of General Education

Many students question the necessity of burdening the university student with courses in general education that are not part of their chosen fields of study but are deemed as requirements. Such subjects as English, history, government and sociology may seem unimportant and not contributing in any way to the chosen course or future career, however, if one stops to think for a moment about the consequences of not having these subjects in the curriculum, then their significance is revealed.

For instance, the development of the basic skills of any student should be broad-based and comprehensive enough to create a wide world-view. For instance, basic skills in written and spoken English are imperative to any student, irrespective of the field of study so that he or she develops good communication skills to be able to present their knowledge more effectively (Jackson, 2012).

However, it is not just developing more skills. General education also contributes in building an all-round personality and a better person as the life of a person after college does not confine itself to the limits of one’s area of specialization, but one has to also take one’s place in the world as a citizen, employee, parent, spouse and a social being. General education, with its broad scope, aids in developing critical thinking and fosters an in-depth view into the more universal subjects such as how the government, society and humanity function (Austin, 2011).

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Other arguments for the inclusion of general subjects in the curriculum is that educational fields such as the humanities aid in innovative approaches to solving problems in areas like business. Also, effective learning methods and analytical mindset are developed when one studies subjects such as history or philosophy (Austin, 2011), and basic science and mathematics give us important insights into the everyday needs of medicine, the environment, the basic calculations and so on (Jackson, 2012).

To give personal experiences from learning general studies subjects, I take the example of history and literature.

History is just not a subject that lists past events, people and dates: history actually gives us a comprehensive perspective of how man has evolved over time and how the present-day social norms, culture, and language have developed over time. This not only gives us an appreciation of these aspects of human civilization, but also learn from the mistakes committed in the past and how to avoid them in future: for instance, the events of the world wars have opened our eyes to what can happen if greed and ambition are left unchecked and how peaceful negotiations can solve problems easier than violent behavior or conflicts (Homer-Dixon, 1996).

Literature is not simply a collection of stories that are read to pass time. Literature gives an insight into the different characters and their behavior under situations. The different world cultures, their language, norms and way of life is also provided by literature. But most importantly, reading literary works helps in learning how people think and act in the environment and this gives us a direction in our own lives, thoughts and actions (Austin, 2011).


Austin, M. W. (2011, April 13). The Value of General Education: General education courses are a crucial component of a sound college education. Psychology Today. Retrieved August 12, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ethics-everyone/201104/the-value-general-education

Homer-Dixon, T. (1996). Strategies for Studying Complex Ecological-Political Systems. Journal of environment and Development, 5(2), 132-148.

Jackson, B. (2012, March). Why is general education important? Retrieved August 12, 2015, from Columbia College: https://www.ccis.edu/nationwide/newsletters/MoberlyNews-2012-03.pdf

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