General curriculum requirements. C’mon folks, they’re not that bad. At least you can rest assured that everyone else has to do them, too. As for me, I’m actually a fan of GCRs and think that we should have more of them here at GW. After you put away the pitchforks and douse the flames, I hope you’ll at least take a minute to hear what I have to say.
GCRs are almost universally hated: for their huge sizes, boring topics or a perceived disconnect to an area of study. They’re also difficult to be exempted from, frequently dooming plans to graduate early. Regardless of these issues, I think that GCRs are not only a good thing, but ought to be expanded.
These requirements provide a common learning ground for all students, a theoretical base for study and are selected by faculty and administration to create a solid foundation for further education. I propose University-wide GCRs for the sake of establishing a scholastic infrastructure for all students.
I consider the following six classes – which would ideally taken during the first two years of undergraduate study – to be the most important for such a system: writing/literature, world history, economics/finance, language/foreign culture and basic science.
Why these? Two semesters of writing and literature should be required since writing is the single most important skill to take away from an undergraduate education. The University has approached this topic with its implementation of the UW20 classes, but it should continue to further develop this necessity in many fields.
As for world history, we have to know where we’re coming from to figure out where we’re going. And you’re a complete idiot to repeat the mistakes of those who came before. When it comes to economics and finance, money really does make the world go ’round, it turns out. Economic analysis is essential to the complete grasp of an issue. Also, you’ve got to learn how to deal with personal finance when you’re shoved from the ivory tower to land on the hard ground of the real world.
Two semesters of language and foreign culture are needed because, contrary to popular belief, the United States is not the only country in the world that matters. A combined language and culture class provides useful information about other cultures and uses both the left and right brain.
Finally, we need basic science. Considered to be the redheaded stepchild of requirements, science cannot be ignored, as it is important to understanding the natural world no matter what you major in. Even one semester of basic scientific concepts provides students with the tools to better analyze the world around them.
While this may appear a large amount of requirements, remember that these are only seven classes out of the 40 students normally complete at GW. Furthermore, many schools already go beyond these recommendations; the Columbian College requires three semesters of science, for example.
Nonetheless, I realize there are logistical problems associated with this proposition. This system’s potential increase in requirements would make it harder to graduate early and could result in inflexibility of study plans for some students. Unless new offices are created to oversee these classes, this proposal would place undue stress on certain departments and professors. Additionally, such courses would require discussion groups to alleviate the problem commonly found in many required courses – large, impersonal classes in the bowels of E Street or Funger Hall. Yet the benefits of core requirements drastically outweigh the costs.
University-wide requirements will push students into wide-ranging disciplines that they may not explore otherwise. GW will gain academic prestige, ranking the school with top tier schools such as Columbia University. GW graduates will gain a reputation as writers who have the ability to analyze issues with a variety of tools (economic, cultural, using a historical lens), regardless of their area of study.
Admittedly, there are not many universities who demand such broad-ranging work from all students, and GW administrators may very well ignore my suggestions. Therefore, we students currently bear the responsibility for our own education: to pursue those classes that challenge and frustrate us, to try something new and to provide our own motivation to seek opportunities outside our limited areas of study. Until general curriculum requirements are expanded, each student is responsible for his or her own educational experience – and for 40 grand a year, let’s get our money’s worth.
-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs and political science, is a Hatchet columnist.
This article appeared in the October 19, 2006 issue of the Hatchet.