The debate for the best forms of education is a long and enduring one that still exists from past days in ancient Greece. Philosophers from the past argued how they ought to educate young people and about what was most important in education.

Greek discus thrower

Ancient Greek statue depicts the beauty of human form and the importance of physical fitness Photo credit: from the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library

The Greek word “arete” means excellence or virtue, but the full sense of the word when applied to education means being all that you can be and fulfilling one’s potential. This kind of excellence that philosophers such as Plato have argued included not only training of the mind but training of the body, as well as an appreciation for art.

The modern world today is scientifically lightyears ahead from those Greek ancestors of western culture. The advancements in math and science increase exponentially each year as we discover more and more about the universe, but art and athletic programs remain the same. That is not to stay they’re stagnant, but they’re rooted in things that are less changing and more traditional.

Fullerton College, just like many educational departments in America, require a “C or better” grade in math and science no matter the major focus. Some majors also require arts or physical education courses, but these are not courses that require a high average to graduate.

The purpose behind these requirements may be to simply correspond with the California State University of Fullerton general education requirements, which demand the same grade averages in those courses. However, the reason for those exact requirements are subject to the age old debate.

“Students’ success in the global socio-economic climate will be determined by the ability to research, analyze and apply universally accepted principles in areas beyond those learned in their majors. These courses serve as the stepping stones to a lifetime of growth; personally, professionally and academically,” according to the CSUF GE requirements page.

CSUF believes that through these requirements a student will be better prepared for life and be a well-rounded individual, but how do they decide which subject is of higher importance and therefore ought to have a high grade average requirement?

President Barack Obama is famous for his support of science and mathematics in the country’s educational programs. He has spoken many times on how a focus on these subjects will bring the country a brighter tomorrow.

“As a society, we have to celebrate outstanding work by young people in science at least as much as we do Super Bowl winners because superstar biologists and engineers and rocket scientists and robot builders, they don’t always get the attention that they deserve, but they’re what’s going to transform our society,” the President said at the White House science fair in 2014 . “They’re the folks who are going to come up with cures for diseases, and new sources of energy and help us build healthier and more successful societies.”

While it may be acknowledged that math and science are integral parts of an education, the same may not be said about art and physical education. These programs are shrinking from existence in the public school system. With no budget to support extra courses, these are the first subjects to be sacrificed.

Art and physical education are not extra courses, and they should not be overlooked. Just as the ancient Greeks believed, these subjects are helpful in creating a well-rounded person, and modern thinkers support those beliefs.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education believes that physical education supports knowledge learned in subjects such as math and science. Physical education also reduces stress and develops social skills.

Art, on the other hand, develops creativity and critical thinking skills, which can also be used in other subjects but are of more importance to the growth of self-development.

These courses should not be thrown away, but they are also significantly different from math and science. While much of this country’s educational system is not tangible, art and physical education are the most tangible courses that one can experience.

In addition to being tangible, art and physical education as opposed to math and science are also heavily subjective. One professor can say to a math student that he or she may have failed because they did not learn the equation sufficiently, but an art teacher cannot say to a student that the art does not meet their requirements as easily.

Unless a student has failed to apply themselves completely to art or physical education, the student has strived towards his or her own excellence, or arete. Still a grade must be assigned to a subjective course, and so many students, though they applied themselves fully to the course, may receive a marginal grade in comparison with someone is more athletic or creative.

While it’s commendable that Fullerton College still holds its graduates to such well-rounded requirements, it’s not realistic or fair to hold the students to a high grade standard in those courses which are subjective to personal achievement.

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