Mandatory General Education Of Diversity

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UCLA is trying to push for a requirement for students to take a cultural/religious diversity class. Should UCI have such a requirement? And are we pushing hard enough for it?

UCI has general education requirement for the Arts and Humanities, but students can choose from a variety of classes in Women’s Studies, African American Studies, Asian American studies —  there is not necessarily a specific requirement for one type of class over another.

The student population at UCI certainly could use a more Humanities-based general education, but a simple education requirement might not be successful in expanding the “tolerance” (what a repugnant word) and open-mindedness of all incoming transfers and freshmen.

I feel that it is all dependent on the students’ attitude coming into the class: if a person is simply not open to becoming aware about diversity, and about how to respond to students of different backgrounds, then one mandatory class is unlikely to change his/her mind. If the university is serious about educating students on “diversity,” then it needs to have more consistent reinforcement throughout students’ education or stricter consequences for ignorance.

But even with all of these additional resources, what could persuade students to care about issues that they did not care about before? In my experience, interpersonal reaction is the best solution for understanding “diversity” and “different cultures.”

I am skeptical about these terms because they seem to create a divide where there may not be one. To learn about “different cultures” is to suggest that cultures are mutually exclusive and the people  are inherently different from each other. Placing an emphasis on diversity may in fact encourage the idea that students are different from one another and that it is difficult to understand one another without the aid of a class.

Ultimately, I don’t think a mandatory class is going to have a huge impact on a majority of students. But it is better than not having a class.

As long as there is an emphasis on STEM classes and programs, humanities classes are always going to be less valued and taken less seriously than math and sciences. In my experience, non-Humanities majors are less likely to take Humanities class seriously than Humanities majors. A class, therefore, would not be generally beneficial to all students, just as a mandatory science class is not useful to students who will not have to apply those skills to the real world.

It can be argued, however, that skills and ideas learned in the Humanities, particularly about other people and “cultures” that one is unfamiliar with, are relevant and applicable to everyday life.

For me, the effectiveness of an idea or class is dependent on who teaches it. If a teacher can be interesting enough to inspire to be more open-minded about different “cultures,” then they have done their job. If the teacher is apathetic, it will be useless.

Essentially, whether there is a mandatory class on cultural diversity or not, it all comes down to how receptive students are to it. But having a mandatory class couldn’t hurt.

 

Karam Johal is a fourth-year women’s studies major. She can be reached at johalk@uci.edu 

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