Four classes every college student should take

Colleges mandate students take general education classes, but coding is not typically on the list even though basic coding skills are a crucial skill today. (AJC File)

Here is another provocative piece by AJC intern Martha Michael, a recent University of Georgia graduate with a degree in journalism and minors in political science and Spanish. A Valdosta resident, Michael interned with the AJC local news and features teams this summer. In September, she is going to Spain for 10 months to teach English.

In this piece, she cites four courses colleges ought to mandate for all students, including computer coding and personal finance.

By Martha Michael

One of my fellow interns wrote a column about general education requirements, those pesky classes that you have to take no matter what your major is, and the only way to avoid some of them is to earn college credit in high school by taking AP, IB or dual-enrollment classes.

UGA grad Martha Michael

Like Alma, I think many of these requirements can be a waste of time and resources, for students, teachers and the schools. And for public universities, it’s a waste of money by the state. Instead of requiring students take a one-credit hour physical education class, for example, which is an indirect way for graduate research assistants to earn money, we could increase research funding at our institutions of higher learning. But I digress, that’s not what I’m here to say.

The University System of Georgia and its member institutions should not eliminate all of their gen-ed requirements, but they should require classes that will provide students invaluable lessons, regardless of background, interests or major.

Here are four classes I think universities should require:

  1. Computer Science – Basic coding skills should no longer been viewed as an accessory, but a crucial skill in today’s job market. Technology is integrated into nearly everything we do – even resumes have turned into online portfolios. In the Internet Age, knowing how to build and run a website, create graphics, model data and quickly adapt to a variety of software is useful in any work environment. So why wouldn’t we require a class that teaches us more about tools we are already using? Providing all students a hands-on opportunity to engage with the basics of computer science will give them solid technological footing on top of whatever else they’re studying. (Note: Although I’m a die-hard Dawg fan, this is one situation where Georgia Tech has us beat: They already require students to take Introduction to Computing.)
  2.  Media Literacy – In the “fake news” generation, how do we know what we’re reading is real, truthful reporting? I propose a class that teaches students how to navigate the media, and how to sort through a seemingly infinite amount of information to find what is reliable, and how to identify potential bias. Everyone, not just those interested in pursuing journalism, should be able to recognize the difference between trained reporters and the “panel of experts” talking on a TV news channel. But beyond journalism, students need to be able to recognize the credibility differences between Wikipedia and professional journals for a research paper. To produce well-rounded students, they should also be required to keep up with current events. Pushing students to become news literate will not only increase their awareness of what’s going on in their cities, states and nation, but open up discussion on a broad range of issues among students. Finally, lessons on free speech rights, especially what rights students have on their college campuses, create informed citizens and prevent misunderstandings between university administrations and their students
  3. Personal Finance -This is the one I hear demanded the most. Many students graduate without a bank account separate from their parents, and are injected into the job search without financial independence. How many students have a clue of how to complete their annual state and federal taxes? Surprisingly few. Perhaps if colleges were producing more financially savvy graduates, the student loan debt crisis would not be as severe. Furthermore, graduates are entering the workforce without any experience or practice of negotiating a salary or benefits packages. If universities truly want to teach their students what it takes to be successful in the real world, they would ensure students were taught the basics of banking, budgeting, personal income taxes, credit, insurance, and salary and benefits negotiation. After all of the money students pay to a university, the least a school can do is ensure that those students are equipped with a certain level of financial awareness.
  4. Sexual Education – College campuses are home to a large population of students with sudden freedom and raging hormones. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control, young people aged 15–24 years acquire half of all new sexually transmitted diseases, and 1-in-4 sexually active adolescent females has an STD. Therefore, it should be a priority of all schools to educate students on their campus on how to be and stay healthy. Secondary public school sex-ed has a history of being underfunded and unreliable, since school boards usually bend their ear to concerned, overprotective, or religious parents on what constitutes appropriate sexual education so students hardly get anything out of the class. By college, parents no longer hold that sway over what information passes through their children’s ears—or have supervision over their social behavior.  A college-level sex-ed class could be a solution. Clear, fact-based lessons would address everything from STD prevention; recognizing signs of breast, prostate and ovarian cancer; to the female menstrual cycle. The other part of the class could be similar to UGA’s Human Sexuality class, which includes discussions on consent, gender identity, and sexual orientation and behavior. It is also important to inform students of the spectrum of resources available on their campus, from where to find contraception, support groups for student mothers, to sexual assault help centers and hotlines.

Reader Comments 0

30 comments
Libertylover
Libertylover

This list of suggestions shows how far our ideals of higher education have fallen. Colleges should be teaching Western Civilization, American and British literature, American and British history, mathematics, science, and art and music appreciation. Anyone who hasn't studied these subjects simply isn't educated. A citizen doesn't have to know how to code, nor that there is an infinite number of "genders" people can pretend to be. But he does have to understand humanity and its history, and the origins and development of his culture. If we don't understand that, we can code all day long but still be sadly stunted human beings.

LindaZehnbauer
LindaZehnbauer

I taught a basic finance / consumer economics course at the secondary level; it was a requirement for all high school seniors in the state of Illinois. However, I think 17-18 years old could be a bit young to comprehend the entire curriculum. I agree, this course could be beneficial to college students.

Rustytig
Rustytig

Public speaking and debate should be included.  Being able to communicate coherently without saying UMMMM all the time, and debate to have to see both sides of an issue.  

DrArt03
DrArt03

These are all classes that should be taught at the HS level. I would also recommend Civics.  I attended HS in the 50's and, except for programming, received these.  Think of how many kids graduate today and can't balance a bank account.  et's go back to the basics at the proper level.


loel
loel

The greatest class I ever had in college(South Georgia State in Douglas and UGA) was one called "Classics 310".  Such a power course on words and all elements of word formations.  This class opened the doors to the world of education in all and I mean all other studies. To this day, I wish I had had this teaching on day one.  Sad, this was and is that I stumbled on to it to fill out a quarter schedule in my junior year.  

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

I am of the belief that colleges could eliminate one full year of class requirements by doing away with most of these "general education" or "core curriculum" classes.  That said, let's play along with our young author.

1.  Computer Science.  I don't think students need to know "coding", but rather, in-depth, advanced level Word and Excel training.  

2.  Media Literacy.  Huh?  Useless class.

3.  Personal Finance.  This is one class I could get behind.  Many adults, even college graduates, are financially illiterate.

4.  Sex Education.  Sorry, you lost me at "gender identity".  Just because Fred in Accounting puts on a dress and high heels does not make him a woman.  Yes, the surgeon can rearrange soft tissue and he can take hormones to fool certain glands, but he still has the chromosomes of a man.

Joshua Kitchens
Joshua Kitchens

Those are really fair courses. I'd recommend two others to consider. Marketing, Interpersonal Communications Both are helpful regardless of what ever field you might enter, and are helpful with promotion yourself and your organization. They are also helpful for understanding how people react to and deal with different situations.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

There are some interesting assumptions here about the student audience, and the sort of "education" desired. What the writer seems to want is a very practical education in how to cope in today's world. Pretty short-sighted. And if technical knowledge in the media is desired then go to a technical college or a professional school, not a liberal arts University/college. Don't blame the latter for not being the former.

The rationale behind those dreaded "general ed." courses, also known as "Core Curriculum" courses, is that liberal arts graduates should have a fundamental grasp of the basic areas of knowledge in both the sciences and the humanities, as taught by scholars/specialists in the field.  There's also the more general aim of students learning how to think critically. 


I read this essay, and kept thinking of the Dunning-Kruger effect..........

bu22
bu22

@OriginalProf  Agree.  This is mostly HS and before stuff.  Sex ed is taught in middle school.  Personal finance is not a college level course, but it probably should be mandatory in high school.  "Media literacy," as described, sounds like liberal indoctrination, not higher education.  In any event, critical thinking and reading skills are taught in the basic English courses in both college and high school without necessarily being indoctrination.  While its good to be computer literate, computer literacy is a HS level course and additional learning can be incorporated in existing classes in college.  The specific skill sets quickly get dated as software changes.  

redweather
redweather

@OriginalProf When I read this essay I kept thinking of all the times I've given my freshman comp students an opportunity to think and write about topics like these. We also offer freshman seminars in these topics. Maybe that doesn't happen at UGA.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Media literacy, financial literacy, computer science, and sex education are all worthy courses, which I believe should be taught in high school.


In college, history should be made to come alive so that it will be people like LaDainian Tomlinson, below, who will keep our nation viable, within and without, as a beacon of light for this world to emulate.  Please listen to his Hall of Fame Speech, at least the last half of it, in the link below to understand how history comes to life and effects change for the better, in individual lives and for nations.  History coming alive in all of its multilayered dimensions is one of the best ways to create a fully literate nation.  This is the purpose of university level courses.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZTdKQULH1o

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

You will have to hit the red link from youtube, above, to see and hear Tomlinson's speech.  From his speech, which includes history going back to his great-great-great grandfather, a slave who toiled the soil on which LaDaimian Tomlinson was later born:  "I firmly believe that God chose me to bring together two races, under one last name - 'Tomlinson.' "

Babycat
Babycat

Nothing to do with subject but I was watching HGTV last night and saw a commercial for DeKalb schools!  Could not have been cheap.  Perhaps the DeKalb school administrators need a course in fiscal responsibility!

JohnQ2
JohnQ2

I don't think I would include Media "Literacy" or Sexual Education. 

irishmafia1457
irishmafia1457

How about Civics, Government, American History, taught by non left wing profs?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

How about history, geography, math, and basic science? Yes these should have been taught in High School or lower, but many do not have a clue. If you're going to study Media, you need history and geography, don't you?

How about problem definition and solving? Critical thinking (not dissing everything) !

Cobbian
Cobbian

Well done!  Yes, some basic courses about how to take care of very practical issues are much needed.  All four would benefit young people.  Despite what parents may (and I stress "may") teach their kids about the four issues mentioned, they need to hear it in an organized and directed fashion from another source.  This provides what many lack, reinforces what some may have learned, and expands on what everyone needs to know.

Babycat
Babycat

I personally believe that Personal Finance is a must in High School.  Amazed at the number of kids with college degrees much less a high school degree that are clueless about the basics with a checking account!

redweather
redweather

While all of these are worthwhile courses, shouldn't they be addressed earlier than college?

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

Utter waste of college time, not to mention tuition dollars. Parents who send students off to college lacking these (home developed) skills should be ashamed.

proudparent01
proudparent01

With the exception of Computer Literacy, these courses are the responsibility of parents. It is great for the k-16 schools help with courses in personal finance, sex ed, and media literacy but we don't want to expect our public schools to replace the role of good parenting. 

WWTJD
WWTJD

4 Classes that should be taught in High School -- and required for admission to college.

Astropig
Astropig

Don't know about the other three,but totally agree on the personal finance idea.The basic economic illiteracy among the larval ones is appalling.Maybe it is because their universities use every trick,fair and foul,to extract the last penny out of their charges and then teach them that everything that they want should somehow be "free" or paid for by "the rich". (Like,say,that education they just received).


But it goes deeper than that.Some of these people have degrees in economically useless subjects and cannot make change!. They also need a lesson in courtesy and attentiveness.Happy customers spend more money,thus indirectly giving them more job security.


And it wouldn't hurt a bit for a well meaning prof to sit them down and explain to them that the designer sheet set that they bought with student loan money could end up costing them many multiples of the price tag when they stretch the loan out for 20 or more years.Last week in this space,somebody asked a very good question about how much of the frou-frou dorm furnishings being bought right now are being put on the  never-never.I'd say most of them.These students need to be told forthrightly that borrowing in excess of $100K for a degree that will get them a $30K job means that they may not be able to buy a home or a nice car for over a decade after they walk the stage.They need to be made aware that their decisions made today will have life changing effects for many,many years to come.


I know that parents should be doing a lot of this,but they seem to be as illiterate themselves.

altAJC2
altAJC2

On the typical liberal arts campus, a semester long Sexual Education course would quickly transition into liberal boot camp. As would one on Fox News Hatred (whoops, "Media Literacy"). 

Even the study of personal finance would be polluted by the same faculty Marxists saved by the taxpayers from having to make a living in the real world.

If more reality is thought necessary in the college curriculumwhy not start with a critical study of the education bureaucracy and its shamelessly self-serving prescriptions and policies?

Atlanta Doc
Atlanta Doc

Pretty sharp kid. Good advice. The Sex Ed class should include a lesson on "No means No" and what 10 years behind bars could mean for rape.