To preface, I really enjoy some of my general education classes. For example, I’m taking STAT 1100 at the moment. The lectures are very stimulating, and my discussion’s teaching assistant has been an amazing resource for someone who struggled with math in high school. The class is usually very interesting, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants an introductory stats class.
The issue here is that I don’t have much interest in statistics. I personally know and have a tremendous amount of respect for many statisticians, and the field makes innumerable social contributions which I would do no respect attempting to number. However I am an adult who has already, independently concluded that statistics is really not the way I wish to spend my life, or the semester for that matter. I took the class because it fulfilled a content area three requirement for my bachelor’s degree in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Otherwise I would not be on track to graduate.
For this article’s purposes, general education classes are those which do not pertain to one’s major or focus of study, yet is compelled to take anyway in order to satisfy a requirement for graduation. My entire year here at the University of Connecticut will be spent fulfilling these general education classes. The entire year and then many credits next year. This is tens of thousands of dollars. It is also a year of my life. In the grand scheme of things, this time and money are some of the greatest units of value I will ever possess, and they now belong to the university. Nice!
I will probably die within a few decades, for a number of reasons. We’ll see. In the meantime, I am a human being and I deserve to independently choose how I wish to spend every single hour of my life. If I want to waste these years reading Plato or learning statistics or mastering the harmonica, this decision is relevant to me only. Certainly not to an administration motivated to increase my cost of education.
We are entering an economy without guarantee. We will carry tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, enjoy the lowest real wages in literally half a century and then there’s the sixth mass extinction thing which is also pretty inconvenient for us. Our livelihoods, however much longer they last, will be precariously balanced between poverty and wage slavery.
Discovering new interests and curating a well-rounded identity are both very important goals which should characterize our whole education system. But UConn cannot work towards these unilaterally. An entirely new economic system is needed to accommodate a philosophy oriented away from workerism. Right now UConn as an administration has only one choice. It can either acknowledge that we will face poverty and that our life-hours and dollars are precious to us, or it can continue stealing them. UConn is actively denying our working class reality by forcing us to spend years and thousands of dollars fulfilling general education requirements.
We are all adults here. We should be allowed the dignity to decide how we wish to spend our money and our short allotted time. If the university thinks that we as students should be cultured or well-rounded, that is great, one could agree with them. But the notion that we cannot freely decide how to approach these endeavors and need UConn telling us which classes to take is ridiculous and a front for the administration making money. We must come to entirely consensual decisions about the classes we want to take, giving great consideration to the cost of education here, what our area of focus might be and how long we wish to stay in school. Gen-eds are at odds with all of these considerations, and they are nonconsensual. They stand directly in the way of real enculturation and development.
Teachers do not want to teach a class of reluctant general-pupils. Students do not want to take irrelevant classes. The only party benefiting from general education requirements is the Administration, which somehow, despite being a “public” institution, makes nearly every decision in the context of increasing revenue. UConn must begin to see us as human beings rather than simply customers to profit from. They must begin to see us as adults capable of deciding how we wish to spend our lives and what we wish to study.
Harrison Raskin is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.