The Karate Kid and College: Why do you have to take gen eds?

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Have you ever sat in class or a meeting and wondered, “Why am I in here? I will never use this.” Maybe it was a literature class and you are a science major. You ponder how this 17th-century poem is going to help you in medical school. You are probably getting tired of listening to the professor get excited about alliteration and onomatopoeia (words you have no clue or care as to what they are). Maybe you are sitting in college algebra thinking, “I spent the summer working in construction and I never used this. Why should I have to do this?” To make matters worse, you can’t understand the teacher’s infatuation with irrational numbers or how mixing the alphabet with digits is rational or exciting at all.

I once asked a professor why I had to take a particular class. She answered, “To get through this semester and to get a degree.”

While this is certainly true, is that the only point? “How does it apply to the real world?” is the question that reverberates in the mind of a student who can’t conceive of why it matters.

Here is why those classes you don’t like matter. To boil it down, the word education has its roots in the idea of leading an individual out of something (ex = out, ducere = to lead). If that is the case, education attempts to lead you out of is the comfort zone you had when you came to college.

Your college education shouldn’t allow you to cling to the preconceived concepts you had from previous experiences. This may seem shocking and disturbing, but you are a better person for having participated in this expansion of the mind.

If you think practically and mathematically, a little liberal education will help you think abstractly. If you learn better in the world of the theoretical, exposure to real-world applications could help ground you. If we come to college and only expect to learn what we like or what we are accustomed to, we’ll get trapped in our own stale ideologies and miss some of the most important lessons of our lives. College is about learning to see things differently. Sometimes that is not easy or initially appealing. Life is much the same.

Remember the Karate Kid (not the remake that should have been titled Kung Fu Kid) where the young Daniel-san grew tired of doing the tasks Mr. Miyagi was making him do? He finally blows up and says he is done waxing the cars, painting the house and sanding the floor. Then Mr. Miyagi shows him that the tasks had meaning: learning karate.

Just like Daniel-san, we don’t always see the big picture until much later. Don’t get discouraged or delayed by the classes you don’t like. They are part of the process that makes you a better person and an asset to your future employer. That hard work and perseverance will pay off in real #adulthood.

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