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Rationale for Core Curriculum Courses

boston college

Arts in The Core Curriculum

The arts should be included in The Core Curriculum because the need to make, experience, and comprehend art has been one of the essential defining human activities since the record of human history began. Few students, however, come to college equipped with an understanding of and an appreciation for art either as activity or as product. The Core requirement, therefore, aims at enlarging students' systematic knowledge of the arts and at encouraging them to experience art as makers, performers, and audiences both within and outside the University.

One three-credit course in art, music, or theater should be required. Core courses in the arts should give students insight into both the discipline and craft by which artists achieve their characteristic effects and also the satisfactions inherent in the process of artistic creation. Courses in the arts ought to illustrate the role of art in the formation and expression of a culture and should encourage respect for the art of different cultures. Finally, these courses should incorporate a historical perspective, so that they reveal both the discontinuities of historical change in the art of particular periods, as well as the deeper continuities in social and spiritual values embodied in the impulse to make art. Courses whose aim is the development of artistic skills are not included, unless they also incorporate the elements, noted above.

Cultural Diversity in The Core Curriculum

A critical component of a liberal education is the capacity to see human experience from the point of view of others who encounter and interpret the world in significantly different ways. Courses in Cultural Diversity, by introducing students to different cultures and examining the concepts of cultural identity and cultural differences, are aimed at developing students' appreciation of other ways of life and providing a new understanding of their own cultures.

More specifically, the Task Force envisions a one-course Cultural Diversity requirement being fulfilled by:

  • courses on Asian, African, Middle Eastern and Latin American cultures
  • courses on minority cultures of the United States derived from these cultures
  • courses on Native American cultures
  • courses that address the concept of culture from a theoretical and comparative perspective either separately or in the context of the courses listed in a, b, and c.

Cultural Diversity courses could be designed as departmental offerings or as interdisciplinary courses and could approach the culture in various ways: through its religious or ethical values; from an understanding of its historical development; from the perspective of its social, economic and political systems; or from an appreciation of its literary, artistic or other cultural achievements.

The Cultural Diversity requirement functions as a graduation requirement, and, unlike other Core requirements, may be fulfilled by a course above the Core level. It may simultaneously fulfill another requirement of the Core or the major.

History in The Core Curriculum

History should be included in the Core to serve three general purposes: developing an understanding of the historical roots of contemporary societies, recognizing the influence of Europe on their emergence; establishing a framework in which students can organize ideas and locate and understand their own culture and era; and encouraging the sense of tolerance that results from an understanding and awareness of the histories of different cultures and parts of the world.

Two three-credit history courses should be required. The content of these courses ought to focus on a manageable portion of human history, and, in particular, on the events, movements and personalities considered important to understanding European history and the impact of European institutions on the modern world. The courses should also promote an awareness of historical developments in other parts of the world. Methodological objectives include increased familiarity with the process of historical change, an understanding of the historical method of inquiry, and the habit of critical assessment of the values, ideas and practices of a historical era.

Literature in The Core Curriculum

Literature should be included in The Core Curriculum for the following reasons: to develop students' ability to read critically and write clearly; to appreciate the working of the human imagination; to discover and assess the shape and values of the student's own culture and explore alternative ways of looking at the world; to gain insight into issues of permanent human importance, as well as issues of contemporary urgency; and to enjoy literary art.

Literature courses also ought to introduce the differences among literary genres and expose students to major canonical works as well as, where appropriate, some non canonical works.

One three-credit course in literature should be required. Foreign literature departments may propose Core courses, taught either in the foreign language or in English.

Mathematics in The Core Curriculum

A mathematics Core requirement should serve two purposes. First, students should begin to understand the practical applications of mathematics and the important role that mathematics plays in life. While mathematics has been a significant component of human knowledge throughout history, its reach has now expanded beyond natural science and technology to encompass the social sciences, business, law, health care, and the analysis of public policy issues. Mathematical literacy and proficiency are vital if graduates are to perform effectively in their work and function as informed citizens. Second, students ought to understand the power of mathematical reasoning to reach conclusions with assurance; as such, mathematical reasoning is an important step in the emergence of independent and logical thinking.

All students should take mathematics as part of their Core experience. Many students will complete the Core requirement while satisfying a mathematics requirement connected with their major. Other students should complete at least one three-credit mathematics course as part of their Core experience.

Natural Science in The Core Curriculum

Natural science should be included in the Core to enable students to understand the principles, the body of knowledge, and the investigative strategies that comprise science and its technological applications; to recognize the power of science to investigate and understand the natural world; to develop an awareness of the limitation of scientific conclusions; to see the critical role science and technology play in contemporary society; and to appreciate why scientists find science intellectually satisfying.

Two three-credit or four-credit courses in natural science should be required. Courses will focus on topics in a particular science or on topics that cross disciplines. Each Core course should illustrate the following basic principles of science: the interdisciplinary nature of answers to scientific questions; the importance of establishing rigorous cause-and-effect relationships; the inevitability of change in nature and the processes that cause change; the use of carefully designed observations and experiments to probe nature; and application of mathematical descriptions and analyses whenever appropriate. The University Core Development Committee will work with science departments to encourage inclusion of actual or simulated laboratory and/or field experience in Natural Science Core courses.

There are several ways to fulfill the Natural Science Core requirement:

  • By completing two one-semester courses offered by the Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, or Physics departments that are designated as Core. These two courses need not be taken in the same natural science. All four departments offer Core courses for non-science majors, although non-science majors who have sufficient preparation may enroll in introductory major courses;
  • By majoring in one of the natural sciences, or by completing the Pre-health Professional program;
  • By completing UN 120-121 Perspectives IV: New Scientific Visions, a double course which also fulfills the Philosophy Core requirement;
  • By completing a one- or two-semester college course in natural science prior to enrollment at Boston College. The student must submit a transcript of this course to the Office of Transfer Admissions (Devlin Hall, x3100);
  • By earning a score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement tests in biology, chemistry or physics through the CEEB Advanced Placement program. Although this score fulfills the Natural Science Core, it does not exempt the student from the required introductory course for the major.

Philosophy in The Core Curriculum

Philosophy has had a permanent place in Jesuit higher education and should be an important part of the Boston College Core. By introducing students to the great philosophical questions, philosophy supplies an integrated vision of physical, human and spiritual reality; it weighs propositions fundamental to personal dignity and social responsibility; and it examines moral issues that affect personal and social decency.

The Core requirement in philosophy should be two three-credit courses, satisfied by the Philosophy of the Person course or the Perspectives, PULSE and Western Cultural Tradition programs. The Philosophy of the Person courses and the Perspectives and Western Cultural Tradition programs present the seminal thought of the philosophical tradition. In the PULSE program, students are also encouraged to make academic inquiry interact with social reality. All Core offerings in philosophy should prompt students to develop an intellectual and moral framework for considering questions of ultimate value and significance, and should challenge them to translate philosophical principles into guides for life.

Social Science in The Core Curriculum

The social sciences should be included in The Core Curriculum to help students understand the causes of human behavior, and to expose students to the dynamics and dimensions of social interaction. The majority of problems facing society today, from domestic poverty to international conflict, from crime to environmental pollution, from racial strife to health care, have economic, political, psychological and sociological dimensions. Although social science disciplines have different approaches to social issues, the social sciences share a common methodology -- the application of theory to real world data -- and overlap considerably in the topics studied.

The Core requirement should consist of two three-credit courses chosen from one or more of the disciplines of economics, political science, sociology and psychology. Each Core course in the social sciences should develop an appreciation of the processes of social interaction and emphasize the analytic frameworks and techniques social scientists use to explain the causes and patterns of individual and institutional behavior.

Theology in The Core Curriculum

As the disciplined reflection on the mystery of God in the world and on the traditions of belief and worship that shape the community of faith, theology explicitly reinforces the tradition of Jesuit humanism that prizes the scholarly investigation of religious faith and faith's relevance to civilization. The study of theology is an essential feature of The Core Curriculum in a Jesuit and Roman Catholic university. This implies an institutional commitment to the Roman Catholic tradition, but also encourages the study and understanding of other theological traditions.

Writing in The Core Curriculum

Writing should be an important component of The Core Curriculum, both as a mode of learning, as well as of expression. Good writing results from an active effort to organize ideas and express them precisely. In addition, it can help students define issues, take stands, and expose their ideas to critical evaluation. In professional, as well as personal life, writing is an important step in translating ideas into action.

Students should be exposed to the practice of writing in two ways. First, freshmen should be required to take a new course entitled "Writing as Critical Practice" (unless exempted through advanced placement examinations). This course ought to develop the student's ability to think critically and write effectively through frequent writing assignments and individual student-teacher conferences. The course will be best taught in small sections, and will be taken, if possible, in the first semester of freshman year. Second, as an overall goal of the Core program, a strong writing component, designed to engage students actively with the material they study, ought to be included in as many Core courses as possible.