Widgets Magazine

New Humanities Core announced

A new set of tracks for taking humanities classes, called Humanities Core, will be offered for the first time in the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years.

According to the announcement by the program’s creators, Senior Associate Dean for the Humanities and Arts Debra Satz and French professor Dan Edelstein, the Core will “provide students with a structured and guided pathway into the humanities.”

The Core’s four tiers each consist of a class or series of classes that addresses a certain aspect of the humanities. According to the proposal, the first tier, “Foundations,” will focus on the ancient origins of world civilizations. The second tier, “Traditions,” will study the history and traditions of various cultures through a three-course sequence. As of now, there are four planned tracks within “Traditions:” students may study works from East Asian, Middle Eastern, African/African-American or European traditions. The third tier is called “Disciplines” and is comprised of introductory courses for various disciplines in the humanities, including (but not limited to) philosophy, classics and art history. The fourth tier is a series of advanced seminars in the humanities.

Edelstein said he thinks entering the humanities may be a daunting experience for students because of its breadth and lack of structure. In turn, this may impede interested students from taking humanities courses.

“Unlike many other tracks, like chemistry or computer science, some students find it intimidating just to know where to start with the humanities,” Edelstein said. “After all, how do you choose from 3,000 course offerings?”

Edelstein thinks the Core will appeal to these students by making courses more navigable. Luke Miller ’19 notes that a stronger emphasis on the humanities would provide a common “basic set of skills” for all students.

“I feel like humanities should be more of a requirement, because… no matter what you do here, there is something that everyone will get out of [the humanities],” Miller said. “Because currently, there are ways to get through Stanford without pushing yourself to take any humanities classes.”

Alejandro Ballesteros ’19, who studies mechanical engineering, also believes that the humanities are essential in forming an educated individual, but notes that the line of academic freedom is difficult to toe.

“The University should be a little stricter on its humanities requirements, but it’s hard to balance that with student autonomy,” Ballesteros said.

The new Core will differentiate itself from Stanford’s Structured Liberal Education (SLE) and Education as Self-Fashioning (ESF) programs, both of which are only available to freshmen. In order to make humanities courses available to all students, the Core will both introduce new classes and create a tiered system to help students navigate course choices.

Miller, who chose not to take SLE or ESF, notes that he has struggled to build the same level of humanities background that these programs provide their students.

The Humanities Core comes at a time when humanities requirements at Stanford have been the subject of broad campus discourse. With regards to the “Traditions” tier, the Core places a large emphasis on diversity in cultures, and states that “no single cultural tradition can be required of all students.” This seems to contrast with the Western Civilization requirement proposed earlier this year, which proposed a standardized humanities curriculum based in the Western canon.

“It was quite coincidental and useful that the brouhaha over the Stanford Review’s proposal to reinstate the Western Civilization requirement occurred around the same time as the new Core,” Edelstein said.

During the course of the next academic year, Satz and Edelstein will also undergo the creation of a humanities minor, which will be available in 2017-2018. To fulfill the minor, students will take a “Foundations” course in addition to one of the four “Traditions” tracks, and finish with two “Disciplines” courses or advanced seminars. However, Edelstein was clear that this is all subject to change.

The “Foundations” course and the European “Traditions” track will both first be offered during the 2016-2017 school year, and the other three “Traditions” tracks will be offered starting 2017-2018. Additionally, a list of the advanced seminars will be made available in fall 2016.

Contact Max Pienkny at maxp123 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • Julian Francisco Watrous

    fantastic article

  • Alejandro Ballesteros

    I agree, what an eloquent and well spoken young man.

  • Luke Daniel Miller

    both of the above comments are exactly correct. bravo!

  • rick131

    Stanford students definitely need to increase their humanities requirements.