Herbology Counts, Too!

27 Sep

Everyone loves to hate gen. ed. classes. One of the things I hear most frequently from other students is something along the lines of, “Gen. eds. are a waste of time – I’ll never need to know about [Early Modern European literature/the reproductive cycle of monkeys/opera] when I’m a [doctor/lawyer/fill-in-the-blank]!” While this may have some truth to it, let’s talk a little bit more about why you should enjoy your gen. eds.

Harry Potter has been my life from the womb. Not really, but close enough. I’m an English major, and I can honestly look back to the moment I become enamored with reading – and it all began with our favorite wizard, The Boy Who Lived. Harry Potter’s journey helped me learn so many important lessons applicable to my own (frustratingly devoid of magic) life, and I’m going to share one of my favorites with you.

I like to think of it like this: Harry’s favorite class was Defense Against the Dark Arts (DADA), and he learned valuable information that helped him (spoiler alert!) defeat You-Know-Who in the end. Think of DADA as Harry’s major. Just like your major classes will undoubtedly help you gain important skills for your future career, you know that DADA classes helped Harry in his path to eventually become an Auror, the Ministry of Magic’s magical law enforcement department (think of Harry as part of the magical SWAT team). With me so far?

I refuse to believe that.

I refuse to believe that.

But, DADA was not the only class in Harry’s schedule, as you will remember. He took Potions, Transfiguration, Charms, Divination, Herbology, and so many other classes – think of these as gen. eds. While these classes weren’t always his favorites, they were important to his education as a whole. Here’s why Harry’s gen. eds. were important and why yours should be, too:

1.   You’ll learn something (duh).

No matter what the class is, you’ll learn something. Maybe it’s not going to help you be a better brain surgeon or a better architect per se, but there’s value in what you’re learning. Find it. Maybe it’s a newfound appreciation for baroque art or astronomy, or it’s learning how to incorporate research into your writing more effectively. College is all about growing as a person, and what better way to grow than learning more? The added knowledge will manifest itself as useful at some point, whether it’s super important or not. Even if your ability to remember obscure facts from years past only helps you win an argument with a friend, hey, it’s still useful. I always love to share random information from classes I’m taking – it’s fun!

Take, for example, Harry’s Potions classes. Those were undoubtedly Harry’s least favorite classes — yet he remembered Professor Snape’s lesson about bezoars as antidotes to poison. Thus, when Ron ingested poisoned mead in Professor Slughorn’s office in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry was able to save Ron’s life with a lesson learned years before. You never know – maybe something you learn your freshman year in a gen. ed. will help you at some point in the future! Maybe not in life-or-death situations, but more knowledge never hurts. So, go to class, pay attention, and enjoy it!

Maybe you would have remembered that if you'd read page 394.

Maybe you would have remembered that if you’d read page 394.

2.     General education courses make you a well-rounded person.

Call it cheesy, but it’s true. Your passion can be chemistry (potions), but if all you ever do is talk about chemistry, you’re not going to have much of a social life. More importantly, is there anything in the world you’re so interested in that that’s all you want to talk about? I would venture a guess that there’s not. We’re complex creatures who crave stimulating conversation! Remember, professional quidditch player Viktor Krum only wanted to talk about quidditch, and his relationship with the intellectual Hermione didn’t last long. Don’t focus too much on your major – diversify your studies!

Gen. eds. give you the opportunity to learn about new topics, and taking a variety of classes such as foreign languages, history classes, English classes, or whatever else you might find, gives you new perspectives on the world around you. You might learn about Middle Eastern cultures, Buddhism, or simply be introduced to opinions that differ from yours. Whatever knowledge you gain, chances are, it will also help you grow as a person. At the very least, you’ll look at those topics a little differently than before. Take advantage of those opportunities!

Get it? She's well-rounded... she's round.

Get it? She’s well-rounded… she’s round.

3.     General education courses help you build skills applicable to your major, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

Your philosophy class won’t teach you the physics needed to build a Rube Goldberg machine for your engineering major, but the writing, reading, and reasoning you will use in that class will undoubtedly transfer to your major. Many people make the mistake of thinking that engineers only need to be good at math –- not true! Math is only one small part of the profession. The communication skills you learn through writing and reading will help engineers (and any profession, really) when talking with and emailing clients or employers. In the same way, philosophy classes often focus on determining if the philosopher’s theory is sound and cogent, which require logical reasoning. If something isn’t working, an engineer has to be able to troubleshoot and determine the problem, and will use reasoning skills to do so. Find the parts of your gen. ed. classes that help build skills applicable to your major or future career goals –- they’re there, I promise!

Bottom line, even if a class you’re taking seems so far off-topic for your major or interests, you will find something that resonates with you –- if you try. In her third year, Hermione took Ancient Runes, even though Harry and Ron couldn’t see the value in it. Hermione’s knowledge of Runes helped the trio defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named just a few years later –- be patient and think about it. There’s value in every class you take!

Although I'm not so sure if Hermione is all that good at reading runes, considering she thought this was an eye...

Although I’m not so sure if Hermione is all that good at reading runes, considering she thought this was an eye…

4.     You can make gen. eds. work for you.

Gen. ed. courses have the unique quality of being utterly, well, unique. The diversity you find in general education courses is astounding –- you can take classes on the history of hip hop, or a German film course, or even a vampire class (now if only they had a Harry Potter class, I’d sign up for that in a heartbeat…). Take classes that sound interesting to you. At best, you dabble in a bunch of things you’re only mildly interested in to start with, and find a passion. You major in it, you find your dream job, and everything is fantastic. Even in the worst case scenario, you find out what you don’t like and rule that out.

Hermione ran the gamut of classes in her third year, because she loved learning (a part of her character that I like to think I share). Some she loved (Charms), and she some she hated (Divination). Don’t be afraid to take risks, because what you could gain outweighs what you could lose. You don’t want to look back on your college years and wonder if you should have taken that creative writing class, because you desperately want to publish a novel. Take those classes and learn what you can from them.

Swish and flick!

Swish and flick!

 5.     You have an amazing opportunity – don’t squander it.

Every time I read Harry Potter, I’m overwhelmed with a strong desire to go to Hogwarts. (I know it exists, I just can’t seem to run fast enough to get through the barrier on September 1.) Everything about Hogwarts is amazing –- the magic, the creatures, the candy. If I were Harry or Ron, I’d never avoid doing homework. Are you kidding me? Double Potions on Fridays with the Slytherins sounds like a treat, Professor Trelawney’s stuffy Divination class sounds divine (chuckle). Trust me –- I’d do whatever I had to if I were able to learn a Summoning Charm, or transfigure my chair into a puppy. I’d gladly write essays on the properties of moonstone, or werewolves, or practice Charms. But, I don’t have that opportunity.

There are so many people who wish they could attend college, but can’t. You are here. Make the most of it! If you need more incentive than that, remember that you pay for classes. If you take five classes a semester, hey guess what? Based on tuition rates, you can think of that as about $1000 per class, plus books. Don’t waste your money and your time by choosing classes you hate, or not taking classes seriously. Gen. eds. are going to be useless if you don’t do the reading or take the assignments seriously. But they don’t have to be, and it’s all in your attitude.

I'd DIE of happiness!

I’d DIE of happiness!

Remember, the schedule of classes for next semester is already out! You can start using UAccess to look for your classes, and hold them in your shopping cart. Go forth, be daring, and find some fun gen. eds.! Just be thankful you don’t have to register for classes via parchment and owl post. Most importantly, enjoy your classes. You have a splendid opportunity in front of you – make the most of it.

–Tori Outfleet


One Response to “Herbology Counts, Too!”


  1. Dissonance Makes the Mind Grow Stronger | Student Affairs Outreach - October 4, 2013

    […] More importantly, each class you take has its merits. (If you need the reminder, refer back to my blog about gen. eds. from last week.) The pros side of the list will remind you of what you can gain from the […]

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