By JANAE HACKWORT
General education — everybody knows what it is and everybody has to take it to graduate. These prerequisites are an integral part of the BYU curriculum as well as preparation for life.
Starting in the 1952-53 school year, when David O. McKay was still president of the BYU Board of Trustees, GE classes were first listed in the general catalog as a defined part of curriculum.
Before this, the GE classes were offered but did not fall under a specific topic.
“Before general education was specified, they still had it — they just didn’t call it that. The whole university could be considered GE because they didn’t have specialized majors,” said Edward Geary, the chair of faculty of the General Education Council.
Four major areas of study were emphasized in the GE courses in 1952. They included 12 hours of mathematics and physical science, 12 hours of biology and psychology, 12 hours of social science and 18 hours of English and foreign languages.
Changes have occurred in the GE program since its introduction, but the philosophy has not changed.
“It is the central value of the university. It helps develop fundamental skills, both in depth and breadth, in people,” Geary said.
GE classes are also essential and beneficial to students after they leave the university to function in our changing society.
“There is considerable change in our society. Ten years after graduating, most people are doing something different than what they majored in. General education is the best preparation for life. It should prepare people to adapt,” Geary said.
The latest changes to the GE curriculum happened last year when the number of required arts and sciences courses and physical education courses was reduced from four to three and two to one respectively.
“There were two goals in changing the general education requirements. The first goal was to increase flexibility while still preserving the idea of a core knowledge,” Geary said. “The other goal was mainly streamlining. Slight reductions were made in order to make it more feasible for students to graduate without excessive delay.”
Every 10 to 15 years, the university reviews its position on GE to make sure it meets the needs of the students. This is when changes are implemented.
“There will always be general education. It is a good arena to try things out and our current program is flexible enough for that so I don’t see any major changes in the future,” Geary said.