When I came in the US for my 1st year of college, I obviously was concerned about my level of english, whether I would be able to fit in with my classmates and whether I would have the expected level in the other required subjects. My english was acceptable although my oral skills were mediocre; the "fitting-in" part was spotty at times; however there was not much worry for too long about whether I had the expected level in the other subjects. The expectations on a 1st year entry college student in a decent university are (IMO) rather low in world history, political science, calculus and foreign language. I wasn't complaining though, it gave time to work on the "fitting-in" part :). But don't take my word for it, instead listen to this teacher of world litterature in Pennsylvania. She argues that the negligence of subjects of "culture generale" (liberal arts) in US college allows for the gouvernment to abuse the concept of democracy. Here are extracts of her argument:
"The question my experiences in the classroom raise is why have these young people been educated to such abysmal depths of ignorance [..]Geography, history, philosophy, and political science - all missing from their preparation. I realize that my students are, in fact, the oppressed, as Paulo Freire's "The Pedagogy of the Oppressed" pointed out, and that they are paying for their own oppression. [..]
Meanwhile, this expensive stupidity facilitates US funding of the bloody work of death squads, juntas, and terror regimes abroad. It permits the war we are waging - an unfair, illegal, unjust, illogical, and expensive war, which announces to the world the failure of our intelligence and, by the way, the creeping weakness of our economic system. Every man, woman, and child killed by a bomb, bullet, famine, or polluted water is a murder - and a war crime. And it signals the impotence of American education to produce brains equipped with the bare necessities for democratic survival: analyzing and asking questions.[..] I don't think serious education is possible in America. Anything you touch in the annals of knowledge is a foe of this system of commerce and profit, run amok [..] in the rapacity that the industrial revolution created, people first surrendered their minds or the capacity to reason, then their hearts or the capacity to empathize, until all that was left of the original human equipment was the senses or their selfish demands for gratification.[...]"
You can argue that she is pushing the enveloppe to a certain extreme but she sure does make a lot of sense on several points. The argument "ignorance permits war waging" is quite compelling. She also quote Goebbels" when I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver" ( I think it was actually Goring who said so). Anyway, her article made me thankful for "classe de philo" in terminale (senior high school) even though I totally bombed my philo exam "au bac" ;). Here is the complete essay.