Nobody really wakes up in the morning and thinks to themself, “Wow, I can’t wait to go take this exceptionally difficult exam!” The only thing worse than a difficult test is a difficult test in a subject you don’t care about. There is a strong argument to be made against the role of General Education classes in American universities. Sometimes it really feels like a waste of units to be learning about genetics when you’re a business major. Be it music, math, history, or politics, everyone has subjects they prefer to study. Although many people would rather focus only on their concentration, I believe there is strong value to having a baseline understanding of the following topics:
- Art History
Odds are if you’re on a college campus at least one building is more or less neoclassical design, as the architects were probably trying to reference the intellectual innovations of classical times. Knowing a bit of art history goes a long way. From art museums to traveling to buildings in your day to day life, being able to go anywhere and explain the design intentions in a historical context of the things around you brings a new understanding of the world we live in.
2. Conceptual Physics
When I was a little kid, I constantly would ask the same question: Why? This year, I’m taking a conceptual physics course that is finally able to answer some of life’s most pressing questions: Why does a lava lamp work? Why does space impact the ocean? Why don’t we fall through the center of the earth? You don’t have to be the next Isaac Newton to gain a bit of knowledge about how natural forces are working around you.
3. Language (outside of the one you already speak)
This one has the obvious easier traveling perk. Gaining fluency in another language also has a high correlation to improved problem solving, multitasking, and concentration, not to mention a serious resume boost! There is also a certain beauty in learning words that don’t translate exactly into English. One example is
A few years back my family hosted an exchange student from Brazil who was asked multiple times, “Where in Europe is Brazil?” Personally, geography is one of the subjects I know I, as well as most Americans, could use some serious improvement in.
We often consider school to be the place to raise your IQ (intelligence quotient), but taking a psychology class can raise your EQ (emotional quotient). Learning about why people do what they do is an asset in every field of work, especially considering the contemporary push towards collaboration.
In the words of Han Christian Andersen, “when words fail, music speaks”. Learning an instrument has social, emotional, and intellectual benefits. From a young age, my dad stressed musical education as part of the schooling of my sister and myself. I’ve discovered that at my high level university, there are few people who don’t play at least one instrument.
I do not mean to say that focusing on one specific passion isn’t beneficial to your professional success. In fact, quite the opposite is true. By centering oneself on a specific area of academia, you will find it easier to achieve more in said subject of thought, or the idea of “depth over breadth”. Nevertheless, I believe knowing the basics of each of these subjects can greatly improve your overall quality of life.
That being said, these should be pursued for the simple gain of knowledge and perhaps not a letter grade for your GPA (for those still in school). Consider taking a class pass/no pass or for audit at your local college about any or all of these subjects. I understand that not everyone has the room in their schedule or financial ability to do so. I’m happy to inform you that if you are able to read this article, you are lucky enough to be a part of the Age of Information the internet has brought. You can just as easily set aside 10 min a day to learn something new via a simple google search, free online classes, or youtube videos. Through learning these topics you will find yourself more involved in not only the conversations of your peers, but also in the seemingly trivial aspects that you may have previously overlooked in your day to day life.
Lead with Languages. (2018). 10 Benefits of Learning a Second Language | Lead with Languages. [online] Available at: http://www.leadwithlanguages.org/why-learn-languages/top-ten-reasons-to-learn-languages/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].
Learn Piano | Joytunes Blog. (2018). What Are the Benefits of Learning to Play an Instrument?. [online] Available at: https://www.joytunes.com/blog/learn-to-play/benefits-of-learning-to-play-a-musical-instrument/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].