Professor sees value in general education


I’m truly sorry that Aryssa Carvalho (“Opinion” 8-14 October) isn’t having a good time in her upper-division GE classes. Perhaps she had the misfortune of selecting courses of sub-par quality.

But the general gist of her letter is that upper-division GE (maybe even all GE, per her arguments) is useless and a waste of time, and would be so no matter the quality of the courses and the instruction. It’s a distraction from her real interest, she says, which is presumably her major.

I venture to suggest that she did not read the SSU catalog very carefully before choosing to come here. We are not a trade school -- we are a liberal-arts university. Our catalog contains mission statements that make it very clear we offer a curriculum to students who want a broad-based liberal-arts education. Such a curriculum is not for everyone -- that’s why there are barber colleges and welding programs.

It is unfortunate that some students view GE as “unimportant” and “a hurdle” that must be “gotten out of the way” so the students can get on with what’s “really important,” which is of course: the student’s major field!

I believe we faculty must actively encourage students to look at the positive side of their GE experiences, and perhaps we haven’t been doing so. I never miss an opportunity to speak to students about the value of a broad liberal-arts education. (And not just for the elite, I might add; I see no reason why working-class people shouldn’t have doors opened in their minds as well as upper-class people. Like in Russia.)

Here’s what goes in every course information document I distribute in my GE classes:

General Education:  Surveys have shown that few students actually understand the purpose of the General Education program in a liberal arts curriculum. Most students say they go to college in order to be able to get a better job and make more money. Nothing wrong with that – better jobs are more personally satisfying; and as to making more money, well ... “Poverty Sucks,” as the bumper sticker says! But bear in mind that the years you spend at the University are absolutely unique in your lifetime and offer you opportunities for personal development and enrichment that will probably never be available again. Don’t think of yourself simply as a cog-to-be in the great economic engine. That’s selling yourself short. You will be many other things in your lifetime besides a university-trained worker bee. Make a life, not just a living! These are some of the reasons your government “requires” baccalaureate candidates to take GE!                                                         

-- Rick Luttmann, PhD

    Professor of Mathematics