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Why do we have to take core classes?

jaso9n2jaso9n2 Registered User Posts: 856 Member
edited March 2007 in College Life
Normally I wouldn't ask this, but I'm curious: why do colleges make you take sixty hours of core classes?

I guess I see why, to some extent. They want to see if you can hack it in college-level courses. The core courses give you time to decide on a major. But it seems like overkill to do 60 credits, even if you've done a college-prep program in high school. Is it because of money?

I think they need to cut core courses to 30-45 and make degree programs a bit more...thorough. But that's just me.

Any thoughts?
Post edited by jaso9n2 on

Replies to: Why do we have to take core classes?

  • BigredmedBigredmed Registered User Posts: 3,731 Senior Member
    Part of being a college educated person is that you have a wide knowledge base and are able to understand the world at a very high level in your chosen field but also at a substantial level in other disciplines. The way in which a chemist describes the world is going to be very different than the way an english major or a sociology major does. Being exposed to these "other" areas is thus part of the intellectual growth of going to college. Further, many core curricula are set up with the intention of teaching skills and concepts. I was on the curriculum committee for the College of Arts & Sciences at my university and our comprehensive education program placed emphasis on critical thinking, written communication, oral communication, and concepts like appreciation of diversity. Courses that fulfilled these obligations were designated Integrative Studies courses and you had to take a certain number to graduate. It's safe to say that most singular majors have difficulty covering each of these areas sufficiently, and so taking a variety of subjects is necessary.
  • apumicapumic Registered User Posts: 1,529 Senior Member
    Same reasons as they did in high school!
    Most core classes are lower-division, so they simply want to make sure you have the base-level competencies in such areas as English, math, psychology/sociology (soft science), hard (empirical) science, the arts (music, visual/tactile art, performing arts, etc.), and so forth.

    Additionally, it is important to realize that many people do not end up doing what they majored in! For this reason, it is critical that you have skills that crossover well into other fields. Classes like Public Comm/Public Speaking and foreign languages provide skills that people (may) need at some point in most fields.

    What you seem to be asking for is more of a masters-level style of program. BAs are generally not really meant to train you only for what you'll be doing! (HUH?!) Ideally, your BA will be in the area you eventually work, but most college students do not have sufficient experience in the professional workforce to be entirely sure (and accurately deciding) what they will be doing with their lives, so BA programs are meant to be very broad.

    On the other hand, if you do a more "professional" program, such as a BS, BM, BSN, or BSW, you will get more of a masters-style education. That is, you will spend much more time in your major area and less time in gen ed. The disadvantage is that it narrows your options at graduation!
  • willmingtonwavewillmingtonwave Registered User Posts: 3,344 Senior Member
    To make us more culturally literate people. My core is pretty intense:
    Religion, Philosophy, History, Foreign Language up to a literature level, First year seminar, writing seminar, two literature classes, three social sciences, three sciences/maths, an art class, and two health and excercise science classes. I like the core though, some folks complain about it though...
  • scorpscorp Registered User Posts: 994 Member
    Because you don't go to Hopkins :)
    Down with the core! ARrr!
  • i_wanna_be_Browni_wanna_be_Brown Registered User Posts: 7,831 Senior Member
    Hopkins? pfffft, if you don't like a core, go to BROWN. Hopkins still has distribution requirements.
  • smurfgirlsmurfgirl - Posts: 1,108 Member
    Two ways to look at it:

    More $$$ for the university.

    To be a well-rounded person.
  • BlahDeBlahBlahDeBlah Registered User Posts: 581 Member
    They wonder the same thing over in Europe. Maybe you go to school on the wrong continent? They seem to think all the gen ed requirements at the college level are a big waste of time. Then again, they have a much better secondary education system, so maybe they don't need it anyway.

    My major requires 71 credits in the gen ed category, apparently, 47 of which are specific classes or categories of electives and 24 of which are free electives. That would probably be about 48/30/18 on a semester system. I never really found it to be problematic and sometimes I wish that I had endless time and money so I could stretch out my time into 5 years and take more of them. I figure that if you are going to spend all the time and money to go to college and get educated, you might as well get a basic education in as many things as possible. It'd be kind of strange IMO to know a lot about one particular subject, but only have a high school (or below) level of knowledge about everything else. There are even some people who think your major shouldn't be related to your career in undergrad at all, that you should save that for grad school.
  • bruinboybruinboy Registered User Posts: 1,448 Senior Member
    they wanna make sure you really want to major in the subject (weed out those who don't love the subject matter) or the upper div courses require the subject matter in the core courses. either way, you have to take them so do well in them.
  • jaso9n2jaso9n2 Registered User Posts: 856 Member
    None of you have really given a good answer. No offense.

    I can see maybe trying to teach students to be well-rounded, but that's all relative in the first place, and there are legitimate ways of getting around most of those courses...namely AP courses in HS and CLEP.

    Also, I can understand wanting to see if a student can hack it or whatever, and teach study skills, but then...cut it down to two semesters. Three, tops. Why two full years of core and Courses in Preparation for your Major? That's overkill, IMO. College is just as much an investment of MONEY as it is time. That's tuition, fees, possible room and board just over some courses you wouldn't elect to take if you had the choice.

    And honestly, being a well-rounded individual should be up to the student. I mean, entirely up to the student. It shouldn't be a situation where the school makes the student stand on the edge of a cliff, and then it's the student's responsibility to not fall over.

    With the Internet being readily accessible, library cards are still free, and bookstores having tables and chairs...you can be well-rounded without paying a couple hundred dollars to take a class.

    I think if you're going to have a Bachelor's or Master's in something, you need to be able to say you know your field thoroughly. Perhaps upper level courses wouldn't have to be so rigorous if you had more time to actually study it without worrying about a grade or your GPA or scholarships or financial aid...I know these things would be issues regardless, but I think college is becoming a lot like HS in that, the best students or the ones who go the farthest are the ones who know how to work the system and have the means to do so.
  • creese_100creese_100 Registered User Posts: 22 New Member
    What are the top schools that have a strong core curriculum? I know Columbia is known for its core, but are their others whose core holds the same rigor?
  • soccerguy315soccerguy315 Registered User Posts: 7,240 Senior Member
    we have...
    - freshmen seminar
    - lower level writing requirement
    - major writing requirement
    - major computing requirement
    - foreign language proficiency
    - computing proficiency (test you have to take, I'm pretty sure like 98%+ of people pass this easily. If you don't pass it, you have to take a class)
    - Math (1 class)
    - Science (1 physical, 1 biological, 1 with lab)
    - Social Science (2 classes)
    - World Cultures and History (1 European, 1 Outside Europe, 1 cross-cultural)
    - Literature / History of the Arts (1 class)
    - Creative / Performing Arts (2 credits)
    - Philosophy, Religion, or Social Thought (1 class)
  • katho11katho11 Registered User Posts: 1,533 Senior Member
    I think there are some required courses which are really good for everyone to be familiar with (Math, English, History, Psychology, etc)...but then there are others that just make you sit there and wonder why the heck you have to learn the crap they're talking about (Chemistry is what does that to me). I guess everyone has their own definitions of what's important to be aware of, but I'd think most would agree that science courses are pretty useless to people in nonscience majors.
  • AUlostchickAUlostchick Registered User Posts: 1,818 Senior Member
    I go to a state school, and I don't think our core requirements are 60 hours. That seems a little excessive. We have:
    English Comp 1 and 2 (6)
    World Lit 1 and 2 (6)
    Social Science 1 and 2 (6)
    A Math (3-4)
    A Science 1 and 2 (8)
    A Philosophy (3)
    A Fine Art (3)
    A History 1 and 2 (6)

    That's 42, and we have a pretty in-depth core, I think. 60 is too much.
  • BlahDeBlahBlahDeBlah Registered User Posts: 581 Member
    I've heard people mention a few times that they are only doing core classes this semester or that their first year is only core classes and so on...is it really that common for people to take no major-specific classes in their first two years at a lot of schools, or do those people just schedule it that way on purpose? My school has you taking anywhere from 1-4 major-specific courses each term (and you really have to take them, otherwise you get out of sequence), so all the general requirements get scattered throughout the four years. The only part that's standard are the freshman seminar and composition classes everyone takes freshman year. I actually ended up pushing a bunch of mine back to senior year because I didn't have time to fit them in otherwise.

    For the sake of comparison:
    3 freshman composition classes (9)
    freshman seminar (2)
    1 math (4)
    2 physics (8)
    public speaking (3)
    1 history (3)
    1 literature (3)
    1 philosophy (3)
    1 more arts/humanities (3) - don't ask me what else besides his/lit/phil counts as 'arts and humanities' because damned if I can actually find that out
    3 social sciences (9)
    7-8 random electives (24)

    Those actually vary by major but the requirements for all the art-based majors are roughly the same as that. I think that if you made them all free electives most people would come pretty close to having a similar breakdown anyway, aside from the math & science classes.
  • ruyiruyi Registered User Posts: 187 Junior Member
    uchicago is also known for it's core!

    anyways, to the op - you do have a legitimate question, and there's not necessarily a right or wrong answer. that's why the education system can be very different in other countries. for example in france, you have the option to go to a vocational school for high school. (they have a high school analagous to what we have in the states for those who want to pursue a college degree afterwards.) and in england, college is three years, and it's all about your major. there are benefits and drawbacks to both extremes, i'd think.
This discussion has been closed.