Saturday, March 23

Science GEs pose little challenge

If you are a North Campus student, you probably try your best to avoid periodic tables, physics equations and Punnett squares. So it’s unlikely that you’re taking Chemistry 14A, Physics 1A or Life Sciences 1 to meet your science general education requirements, even though these classes are basic introductory requirements for science majors. Instead, your requirements will likely be met with one of the classes that upperclassmen or have told you are easier, such as Astronomy 3 or Physiological Sciences 5.

This practice of taking easy science GEs exists because non-science students want As. But this leaves non-science students graduating from UCLA without ever taking an introductory-level chemistry, physics or biology class ““ a travesty. The GE requirements should be changed to force all students to take one physical and one life sciences “core” course that students in science programs take.

I do not mean to belittle the classes “Diet and Exercise” (Phy Sci 5) or “Nature of the Universe” (Astro 3) which students often regard as easy classes. They teach meaningful, relevant topics, but they’re tailored to North Campus ways of thinking because they’re designed for non-science students. They don’t serve as a way for North Campus students to push their limits by taking a science class.

The class description for Astro 3 explicitly says, “Course for general UCLA students, normally not intending to major in physical sciences.” Basically, it’s a dumbed-down version of a real astronomy course. Phy Sci 5′s class description says that it is not open to physiological science students at all. Similar descriptions exist for other science classes designed for non-science students. Some class names even tell how dumbed-down they are: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 17 is named “Evolution for Everyone”.

Worse yet, some classes that meet the science GE requirements are obviously not science-related: “Introduction to the Study of Language” (Linguistics 1)and “Introduction to Statistical Reasoning” (Statistics 10) are listed as science GEs.

This sort of description shows up only once in all of the North Campus GE classes offered this quarter (English 90). This means that when South Campus students head north to take their North Campus GEs, they are largely taking the same classes as people in those majors. History and non-history students alike can be found in History 1A.

I am not saying that we should remove Phy Sci 5 as a class. But only taking that and “Evolution for Everyone” should not count as sufficient life sciences knowledge for someone graduating with a UCLA degree.

Currently, every student in the College of Letters and Sciences is required to take two physical sciences and two life sciences courses. One of each must have a lab component. While this requirement is enough, it needs some tweaking. Instead of having to take at least one class with a lab component in both categories, non-science students should have to take at least one “core” class in each category: Chem 14A or 20A, Physics 1A or 6A, or Life Sciences 1 or 2. This means that students would have to take two of these classes to graduate, forcing us to have a more well-rounded general education.

It is easy to say that those who have the desire can already sign up for these classes. But if it is not a requirement, there will be little interest in choosing a challenging class over an easier one given that doing so is to put one’s GPA at risk. Making it part of the GE requirement would give students more of a real general education.

Lately, UCLA has been considering cutting GE requirements or going to a three-year degree model to save money. Either option would truly devalue what it means to have a UCLA degree, which should represent a well-rounded education at a university level. It should not signify an ability to correctly pick easier non-science-major classes. According to the UCLA Web site, “GE is the foundation of a UCLA education.” The value of that very education is questionable when I can graduate having never taken a real science class.

Taking Physics 1A for fun? E-mail Ramzanali at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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