For some reason, certain people tend to dismiss the importance of general education. But attending general education courses, especially earlier, can have tons of advantages for new students. Let’s discuss the benefits of general education courses for the average student. And no, they aren’t just for future teachers.
The Benefits as a Student
If you’re a student, general education courses can teach you how to break down a subject to its basic elements. What are the important facts in that lecture you need to memorize? How can you summarize that entire book into a one-page report? What information would others consider key in such an explanation compared to the nice to know but not necessary snippets? You also learn how to recognize parallels and trends between various factors, though mistaking correlation with cause is common.
You could major in general education while you determine what you want to major in while learning skills that are useful in any educational program. You can learn more about what is taught in general education courses by going to the Kaplan University website; https://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/degree-programs/general-education/.
The Professional Benefits
General education often teaches you how to study and how to learn. People increasingly change jobs over their careers and shift careers. It may be a linear progression like repair tech to engineer to engineering manager or nursing assistant to nurse practitioner. Or it may be a radical shift from engineering to a math teacher, business analysts to a small business manager.
General education courses teach you how to break down what you know and compare it to what you need to know so that you focus your time on filling in the gaps. You know how to determine what you need to know and have the skills to analyze your own skill gaps before filling them.
This allows you to make the decision between continuing education courses and certificates employers will recognize versus just going back to school to earn a master’s degree in the hope it helps your career, despite the fact it may not teach you what you need to know and the price is steep.
A side benefit of general education courses is teaching you how to teach others. This is incredibly useful when you need to distill complex findings to an answer as simple as possible but no simpler. Now you can know what to put in a synopsis or presentation to management or a general audience instead of hoping a data dump full of trivia will impress them.
Another benefit is being able to understand what you know and don’t know. You can spend time researching the specific answers you need and determining how to test your ideas instead of broad research in the hope of finding something useful.
The Personal Benefits
General education courses teach you how to determine the validity of statements and how to do the research yourself. If you are given a diagnosis, you’re able to become an empowered and educated patient. And you’re not left at the mercy of the first person who sounds informed and offers a quack therapy. You’ll also recognize when the doctor is taking advantage of the situation, prescribing supplements and herbs you don’t need, at a cost you cannot pay.
Knowing that you don’t know everything and cannot know everything often helps you keep your ego in check. It also allows you to avoid the mistake that many brilliant people make, that being an expert in one narrow field will make them an automatic expert in every other area. This mistake actually undermines your credibility because you fail to realize your own limitations, whether it is a chess master lecturing people on politics or a physicist who argues everything can be simulated as X theory with a simple modifier.
Another benefit is being able to tell when someone is intentionally withholding critical information necessary to make a decision. Are they citing an insider who is supposedly leaking secret information, so you need to buy their program with advice contrary to prevailing wisdom? Are they pressuring you to buy or invest based on emotional hype but lacking real information? You’re less likely to fall for scams when you recognize cases where they cannot answer key questions like “compared to what?”, “where’s your evidence?”, “at what cost?” and “at what risk?”
While you’ll often hear that general education courses prepare you for life-long learning, they’re of significant benefit during your early academic career. You learn how to understand what you know versus what you need to know and then seek out reputable sources for answers, so you can fill in your gaps.
You’ll be able to analyze what others tell you and recommend while being able to detect shoddy theories and avoid the scams. Society gains more rational, educated decision makers less likely to fall for the hype.