Becoming balanced

CAMPUS ISSUES: A report gave UC Berkeley a failing grade for general education, calling into question our balanced education.

The top 10 slots in national — even global — rankings are often reserved for UC Berkeley, but a recent report gives the campus an unambiguous F.

Rankings released Tuesday by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni graded colleges based on whether they require seven core subjects and gave the campus an F for not requiring students to take any of the subjects.

We as students do not believe this is a valid assessment of our campus’s educational value. But, this report raises important questions regarding whether we are receiving a well-rounded education to prepare us for the world and whether the College of Letters and Science’s breadth requirements expose us to a breadth of disciplines.

Upon reflection, we feel that we could be getting a more balanced education. Breadth requirements, intended to expose us to various studies, have instead become obstacles that students find a hassle. Students too often avoid challenging themselves and instead take well-known “easy” classes, like science courses in which they do not truly learn science.

As the College of Letters and Science — enrolling three-fourths of all undergraduates — states on its website, “a broad-based liberal arts education does more than prepare you for a job. It lays the foundation for a future career while also preparing you to compete in the marketplace of ideas.” While UC Berkeley does offer courses that could be building blocks for a genuinely balanced liberal arts education, the current system allows students to dodge earnestly learning a subject by taking a course that strays from the breadth it is intended to fulfill.

A well-rounded education is important. A doctor must not only know how to diagnose patients, but must also know how to communicate, how to understand their patients in the context of society. And it is just as important that their patients with degrees in the social sciences understand their own health and what their doctor is telling them.

Campus officials should re-evaluate whether the breadth system is realizing its purpose, or whether it is time to change. We are not advocating that the campus add new courses or spend extra money, but simply that the campus should rethink whether its liberal arts education fulfills its promise: a comprehensive education.