As Wake Forest’s College Curriculum Review Committee, or CCRC, begins to make suggestions about revisions to Wake Forest’s general education requirements, the place of divisional classes on campus should be considered.
Nearly all students on campus can recall divisional classes that inspired new interests or illuminated a discipline that they had not previously studied; however, students also can recall divisional courses that permanently dissuaded them from pursuing a particular subject.
The Editorial Board of the Old Gold & Black holds that courses designed to fulfill the general education requirement should not require the same level of rigor found in major-level courses.
Instead, general education courses should do just that: provide a general introduction to a topic. Too often, rote memorization serves as the method used by such courses to approach subject matter in a more elementary fashion. This practice contributes to the perception of general education requirements as a chore or something that students must “get out of the way” before pursuing their preferred area of interest. In some cases, the desire among educators to avoid grade inflation results in courses which indelicately walk the line between the elementary and the meticulous.
Students at Wake Forest possess the ability to approach challenging subject matter, but perhaps the most scrupulous study should be reserved for upper-level coursework. In other words, if divisional courses seek to serve as a primer for particular subjects, perhaps they should not be designed to punish those whose skills reside in other areas.
Similarly, divisional classes should primarily feature class discussions about how course material relates to relevant issues.
Many students find themselves struggling to prepare for exams in divisional classes in subject areas that may not be their strengths. Divisonal classes should not cause students excess stress in areas that are not their major focus; rather, they should provide an interesting departure from students’ typical courseloads in a relatively low-stakes environment.
In return, students should not write off divisional courses as difficult, trying obstacles to merely be surmounted. Sampling many different areas of pedagogy is a crucial part of a liberal arts education, but it should add to students’ overall experiences rather than detract from them.