An analysis of core education requirements at 1,007 colleges found that three-fifths of those schools require three or fewer of seven basic subjects, such as science, math and foreign language.
This is the third annual report on general education by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, titled What Will They Learn? The group has set out to illustrate the failings of America’s colleges in requiring students to learn essential subjects over the course of their education.
Most colleges allow students to study pretty much what they please. Schools make some effort to guide course choices through a system of “distribution requirements,” which typically state that students must take a certain number of classes in each of several broad areas of study.
But the general education system is deeply flawed, as higher education leaders openly admit. Very few schools come close to requiring that students learn any particular topic or work, for political reasons. Colleges are made up of competing academic departments and no department wants to be left off any list of “required” study.
Advocates of general education contend students should not be allowed to complete college without learning some amount of essential knowledge. One approach would be to teach essential texts, as favored by the great books scholars at St. John’s College. Another is to cover essential subjects, such as math, science, foreign language, composition, the fundaments of U.S. history, economics, literature and composition. Read more >>