Should colleges require students to take more courses outside of their discipline?

This article from The Atlantic makes an interesting point that the bachelor’s degree has become more centered on specialization rather than a broader education. It argues that a college education should “equip a graduate to deal with complex and urgent issues” and that it is difficult to gain that from pursuing a single field.

What do you think?

The American bachelor’s degree has over the last 150 years become centered on specializations, majors, each student’s home department.  General Education, the classes each student must take outside of the major, is still part of every degree—but it has become weaker and unfocused, disrespected and eroded.  The degree has not gotten tougher as the world has gotten tougher. Instead, legislators and administrators have simplified the degree into lists of outcomes, efficiency initiatives, graduation targets, and courses that can double count for more than one requirement.

It is past time we re-examine, strengthen, and add to the bachelor’s degree.  General Education could and should do so much more than it does.  The California State University is fairly typical in its General Education program in requiring that students take the equivalent of about a year and a half of work in various categories at basic and advanced levels.  Students choose among the offerings from various departments at the university.  At the level of basic skills in written and oral communication and critical thinking, the choices are fewer, but then after those three courses, choices are numerous enough that, for instance, a student’s friends are unlikely to have taken similar courses in social sciences or in humanities or in sciences.  It is common to refer to this approach as a smorgasbord approach, as choices have taken the place of a common core of courses for all… Read more.

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