Pathways put student priorities in peril

Matt Murphy

The ideology that general education is built on is solid: a well-rounded
education creates well-rounded individuals who will become well-rounded
members of society.

This is why everyone has to take a history class.

But that wasn’t enough for the administrators of the California State University system.

The general education pathways were instituted two years ago with the intent of giving students a more in-depth look at a specific subject area.

These pathways have become heavily impacted as students are bottlenecked into the upper-division portions of the 10 pathways. For instance, in my pathway, Health and Wellness, there are only nine classes to choose from to fulfill three sections.

Health and Wellness is one of the most popular pathways.
Students sat on the floor for weeks at the beginning of the semester in
my “Introduction to Exercise Nutrition” class.

I understand the benefits of the pathways. Theoretically, students that begin them in
their first year become well-versed in a specific area and maybe
develop a strong enough interest to transition into a minor.

The point of the general education program shouldn’t be to force students into a minor. It should be to introduce them to a broad spectrum of classes that will pique an interest that can be parlayed into a major.

I would argue that most students find subjects they’re interested in during those introductory classes and don’t need the extra prodding of the pathways.

But by the time they’re upper-classmen, students are left having to satisfy requirements that are unnecessary and detrimental to their academic progress. Seniors are not able to get spots in impacted classes.

When the pathways were implemented, for students who had already completed the first tier of general education, the process of crossing over was so confusing that I’ve never been onboard with the idea.

These past two years with the upper-division pathways should be considered a trial period that hasn’t worked.

Students shouldn’t have to suffer from an ill-conceived system that ultimately keeps them in school longer.

General education is an essential part of the overall college curriculum. The more general it can stay, the better.

Higher education is about making your own choices. Academic interests should not being forced upon students.

Matt Murphy can be reached at [email protected] or @matthewcharlesz on Twitter.