General Education is central to the undergraduate experience at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. As stated in the university’s mission:
"The University is dedicated to achieving excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, in research, and in public service. For undergraduate education, this commitment implies a fundamental subscription to General Education, rooted in the primacy of the traditional liberal arts and sciences as the core around which all curricula are developed."
By exposing students to broad curricula in the Humanities and Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics, the General Education curriculum prepares you to be competitive in the 21st century. Exposure to wide-ranging sets of knowledge develops critical thinking and transferable skills, and cultivates a strong sense of ethics and values. These are all skills that employers look for in their new hires.
Debunking some General Education Myths
Myth #1: General Education is just not relevant or practical in today’s world.
Our nation’s economic competitiveness depends on today’s college students achieving a much more complex set of skills and capacities. A General Education pays off for individual students and the nation as a whole. For individual students, focusing on long-term professional goals and development of skills and knowledge through General Education provides context for understanding our global interdependence and assists them in finding innovative solutions to complex problems throughout their entire career.
Myth #2: General Education seems less practical than a more focused professional education – like engineering, nursing, or business. Don’t these professional majors better prepare students for today’s well-paid jobs?
All students – whether they choose to major in a professional field like engineering or nursing, or in a traditional liberal arts and sciences field like history or sociology or chemistry – need the knowledge, skills, and capacities developed by General Education. Today’s students are likely to change jobs and even careers several times over the course of their lives. If they pursue too narrow an undergraduate education, they will be unprepared for dealing with change – the predominant characteristic of today’s economy and tomorrow’s jobs.
Myth #3: General Education seems to be the type of education that teaches students there are no right or wrong answers.
A General Education introduces students to multiple perspectives and develops their own independent critical judgment. General Education doesn’t tell students what to think; it exposes them to a wide variety of ideas and teaches them how to evaluate those ideas. It introduces them to new perspectives and often leads them to question their preexisting ideas and beliefs. With its emphasis on breadth of knowledge and sophisticated habits of mind, General Education is the best and most powerful way to build students’ capacities to form reasoned judgments about complex issues.
Myth #4: Today’s world is dominated by computers and other forms of sophisticated technology. Wouldn’t it be smarter to focus on providing students with more relevant technical education rather than a General Education?
Today’s employers know that they will need to continuously upgrade the technical skills of their workers as technology changes. They are far more likely to express concerns about the broader general skills of their new employees. For example, employers are more concerned about the lack of problem-solving skills and verbal and written communication skills among their new employees. They want all their employees to have these skills, whether they are working in highly technical fields or not. They are also particularly concerned about the ability of their employees to work effectively in teams and with clients and customers from a variety of backgrounds. A General Education is the best way to develop these capacities.
Myth #5: The types of skills and knowledge advocated for by a General Education cannot be obtained in a few years. It requires far more time to obtain.
This is true. Exposure to ideas and skills in General Education prepare you to be a lifelong learner. The skills and knowledge provided by a General Education also must be developed for all college students in more than just the courses they take to satisfy their ‘General Education’ requirements. They must be further deepened and developed in a student’s major.