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Editorial: Put the ╬ed' in ╬gen ed'

By Opinions Board
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
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This semester, Jerry Hogle, the new vice provost for instruction, will re-evaluate the general education system as part of a routine review. However, the results of the review could be anything but routine ¸ if a committee recommends amending the 7-year-old program, students could see substantial changes starting next spring.

Administrators should see this as an opportunity to revamp a system that has fallen short of what it was originally intended to do, rather than a chance to dismantle a valuable educational tool.

Given that the mission of a university necessarily includes providing students with some semblance of a truly universal education, gen ed requirements are indispensable. However, in order for the system to have any benefit, it needs to be regarded seriously by both students and faculty ¸ something it has lacked in recent years.

Changes to the system should start as soon as possible, lest the aim of creating the gen ed system ¸ giving students a well-rounded education prior to specialized classes in their major ¸ remain permanently out of reach.

All too often, gen ed courses are viewed by both faculty and students as a worthless inconvenience. That attitude is self-perpetuating ¸ faculty see the courses as a waste of their time because of student disinterest and, hence, fail to put much effort into teaching them. And students realize that little is required of them and fail to get interested.

Many professors teach to the lowest common denominator in an attempt to make the courses passable even for those who refuse to make any effort. Often, professors incorporate room for laziness into their lesson plans, dropping grades and offering obscene amounts of extra credit. While such measures may make instruction as painless as possible for students and teachers alike, they don't foster the kind of environment one should expect at an institution of higher education.

By setting low standards for gen ed courses, the UA is giving students a false idea of what college is really like. It's no wonder that the university's freshman retention rate is only 77 percent. When students spend their first semesters blowing off classes, not studying for exams and disrupting courses, they can't take class seriously and won't be prepared for the future.

The university should stop encouraging laziness in gen eds. With courses that encourage students to study and learn, it can help entering students prepare for upper-division and major-specific courses.

If the UA wants to be considered a premier academic institution, then change must begin at the ground floor ¸ it must start with the gen eds.

Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Shane Dale, Caitlin Hall, Saul Loeb, Jason Poreda, Justin St. Germain and Eliza Tebo.

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