An Overview of General Education
A Minimum grade of “D-” at Westmont is required to satisfy General Education Requirements.
I. Common Contexts
- A. Biblical and Theological Canons
- 1. Introduction to the Old Testament
- 2. Introduction to the New Testament
- 3. Introduction to Christian Doctrine
- B. Introduction to the Christian Liberal Arts
- 1. Philosophical Reflections on Reality, Knowledge and Value
- 2. World History in Christian Perspective
II. Common Inquiries
- A. Reading Imaginative Literature
- B. Exploring the Physical Sciences
- C. Exploring the Life Sciences
- D. Reasoning Abstractly
- E. Performing & Interpreting the Arts
- F. Thinking Globally
- G. Thinking Historically
- H.Understanding Society
III. Common Skills
- A. Three writing-intensive or speech-intensive courses:
- 1. Writing for the Liberal Arts
- 2. Writing/speech within the major
- 3. Writing/speech outside the major
- B. Quantitative and Analytical Reasoning
- C. Modern / Foreign Languages
- D. Physical Education (four 1-unit courses) Fitness for Life plus three activity courses
IV. Compassionate Action
- Complete one of the following two options:
- 1. Serving Society; Enacting Justice
- 2. Communicating Cross-Culturally
Common Contexts courses must be taken at Westmont College or at an approved institution similar to those in the Christian College Consortium.
Courses satisfying each of the 8 categories
The Components of General Education
I. Common Contexts
A. Biblical and Theological Canons
- 1. Life and Literature of the Old Testament
- 2. Life and Literature of the New Testament
- 3. Introduction to Christian Doctrine
B. Introduction to the Christian Liberal Arts
1. Philosophical Reflections on Reality, Knowledge and Value. Students will focus on how we can establish and know truths—or on how we can clarify and enact ethical values. Students in these courses should: understand the nature and strength of competing truth claims, or know how to apply various criteria of evaluation to the moral life; recognize the possibility and importance of drawing meaningful conclusions about matters of truth or ethical value; emerge with a sense of how to think Christianly about critical, normative, and evaluative questions of truth and values.
2. World History in Christian Perspective. Students will explore world history from a Christian perspective and engage in critical discussion of the term “Christian perspectives” as a concept whose definition is subject to interpretation. Geographically comprehensive and chronologically wide- ranging, the courses emphasize the historical rootedness of all traditions—the Christian tradition included. By challenging cultural stereotypes, students develop a thoughtful and informed approach to other cultures.
II. Common Inquiries
A. Reading Imaginative Literature. Students will develop skills in analyzing and understanding the ways of knowing provided by imaginative literature. Such an approach invites students to see how literature reveals things we cannot know except by inference or by metaphor. Students in these courses should recognize how imaginative literature honors the complexity of human experience. Further, students will engage in ways of knowing that are inherently ethical by engaging in the practice of compassion by imagining the other.
B. Exploring the Physical Sciences. Students will learn the basic properties and principles of matter and, examine the structure and function in elementary physical systems traditionally studied by physicists and chemists. Students should come to appreciate both creative and systematic aspects of scientific method, and should come to understand the power of theory and prediction within the framework of empirical/experimental modes of inquiry.
C. Exploring the Life Sciences. Students will learn to think about complex living systems within the framework of the natural sciences. Whether experiencing the breadth of disciplines encompassed by the life sciences or focusing more narrowly on a single field of study, students will gain fundamental understandings of life processes rather than solely mastering technical applications based on those principles. As appropriate, students will be introduced to the methods used to develop the models of life processes they are studying and they should come to understand both the strengths and the limitations of those methods, especially as they impinge on a broader philosophical view of life.
D. Reasoning Abstractly. Students will focus on critical and analytical reasoning about non-empirical, abstract concepts, issues, theories, objects and structures. Students in these courses should learn to understand and evaluate abstract arguments and explanations, analyze abstract concepts and solve abstract problems.
E. Performing and Interpreting the Arts. Students will expand their understanding of the fine arts and performing arts, including music, visual arts, theatre, or dance. Students will develop and expand perceptual faculties, develop physical practices integral to the art form, and explore the critical principles which guide artists in the area.
F. Thinking Globally. Changes in economic, political and environmental conditions are contributing to an increasingly interdependent and connected world. Students will study cultural, religious, political or economic practices with an eye to appreciating interactions between people from different ethnicities and world contexts. In the process, they will better understand other perspectives and world views – extending beyond those rooted in “Western” experiences – and will appreciate the deep influence of culture on the categories one uses to understand the world. Acquiring a global perspective equips students to be informed agents of redemption and justice in a rapidly changing world.
G. Thinking Historically. Students will develop an awareness and appreciation for the particularities of time and place, a sense of the complex process of change and continuity over time, the ability to work critically with a range of primary and secondary historical texts, and appreciation for the art of constructing historical narrative. By studying specific historical periods, the history of Christianity, the history of academic disciplines, or by taking interdisciplinary courses, students should: become critical readers of a range of historical sources; appreciate the importance of historical context in shaping our understanding of the world in which we live; be able to engage in thoughtful interpretive and historiographic discussion; have practice in constructing a historical narrative; understand the complexity of historical change.
H. Understanding Society. Students will study social phenomena analyzing and explaining a wide and varied range of human behavior and social institutions and practices. Students should recognize the dynamic interplay among individuals, societal infrastructure, and public policy. Students should also understand the processes of the political economy, the nature of technology and innovation as social phenomena, and the interaction of private enterprise and the public sector. Through exposure to a breadth of literature regarding models or theories that explain social phenomena, students will acquire basic competence to evaluate these phenomena through observation, data collection, and quantitative and qualitative analysis. Students should reflect on the applications of contemporary technological advances and their impacts on personal relationships, research methodologies, the inquiry process, and the accumulation and dissemination of new knowledge.
III. Common Skills
A. Three Writing-Intensive or Speech-Intensive Courses. Students develop their communication skills at Westmont by taking at least three courses that emphasize writing fluently or speaking clearly and effectively. All students are encouraged to take a writing-intensive course during their first year at Westmont. Such writing- intensive or speech-intensive courses encourage students to develop their abilities to articulate information, ideas, and convictions both in written and oral discourse. Students are expected to be able to communicate effectively to a wide range of audiences, within the academy, the church, and the public. The Writer’s Corner enables students at all levels to discuss writing strategies individually with peer consultants.
1. Writing for the Liberal Arts. To fulfill this requirement students may:
- a. take ENG 002 Composition at Westmont
- b. complete an equivalent course to ENG 002 at another college or university
- c. submit a score of 4 or 5 on the AP test for Language and Composition or the AP test for Literature and Composition
- d. submit a score of 5, 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB examination for English A1
- e. Students who submit a test score of 580 on the writing section of the SAT Critical Reasoning Test or a test score of 29 on the ACT English subscore are not required to take ENG 002 Composition and may fulfill the Writing for the Liberal Arts requirement by taking a writing-intensive course offered by any department.
2. Writing-Intensive or Speech-Intensive Course within the Major. All students take at least one writing-intensive or speech-intensive course in their major.
3. Writing-Intensive or Speech-Intensive Course outside the Major. Students completing a single major take a writing-intensive or speech-intensive course in any field outside that major. Students completing a double major take a writing- intensive or speech-intensive course in both majors.
B. Quantitative and Analytical Reasoning. Since many phenomena in our world can best be understood through quantitative and analytic methods, students should develop the ability to interpret, evaluate and communicate quantitative ideas. Central to this experience is: the use of mathematical models for physical or social systems or; the understanding and communication of numeric data including the computation and interpretation of summative statistics and the presentation and interpretation of graphical representations of data. Students should gain skills in quantitative and analytic methods, or, alternatively, the reflective use of quantitative methods as a tool.
C. Modern/Foreign Languages. Westmont encourages students to continue developing their fluency in a language other than their native tongue by requiring students to complete one semester of college language beyond the level of the two- year entrance requirement to the college. Alternatively, having met the entrance requirement in one language, they may take one semester of college-level study in another language. A course in any modern spoken language (e.g. Spanish, French, or German) or ancient language (e.g. Greek or Hebrew) is accepted as fulfilling this requirement. Students satisfy this requirement if they (1) submit a SAT Language Subject Test score of 580 or higher, (2) place into the fourth semester (or higher) of a language in a proctored examination setting at Westmont College or (3) present evidence of a primary language other than English to the Student Records Office.
Realizing that learning a foreign language may be especially difficult for those with certain disabilities, Westmont offers the following accommodation for those who have a documented language based learning disability. These students may take one semester of college level American Sign Language (ASL) at a Community College. To qualify, students must present documentation of their disability to the Director of Academic Advising and Disability Services. The Director will verify the documented disability and notify the Student Records Office that the student is eligible for the ASL accommodation.
D. Physical Education. The physical education program is designed to provide instruction and exposure to fitness, skill-based and leisure activities. All students are required to take Fitness for Life and three 1-unit physical activity courses. Students establish a wellness-based foundation in Fitness for Life and build on this foundation with the additional three activity courses providing reinforcement for a lifetime of physical activity. Subsequent PEA courses in a given activity must be at a higher level. Transfer students must complete one PE Activity course for each full year they are enrolled at Westmont, or complete all four (4) PE Activity course requirements, including PEA-032 Fitness for Life. Please note: Reapplicants who originally entered Westmont as first-year students are not considered transfer students regardless of the length of time they were away from Westmont or the number of units they “transfer” back to Westmont on their return.
IV. Compassionate Action
A. Serving Society; Enacting Justice. Students will participate in a course-related service project or an internship that is explicitly integrated into the academic content of the course and which includes significant involvement in responding to social issues. Through this experience, students will raise their awareness of issues of justice such as those grounded in social class, gender, ethnicity, human disability, the environment or the impact of technology. In completing this option, students will examine their own presuppositions and develop their skills in their exercise of charity and compassion.
B. Communicating Cross-Culturally. To complete this option, students will live or work in an extended cross-cultural setting that is explicitly integrated into the course or program’s goals and content. For example, a student might enroll in an off-campus program that involves significant encounters with people from other cultures, in which the encounters are designed primarily to facilitate mutual understanding, dialogue, and appreciation. Alternately, a student might enroll in an on-campus course providing significant opportunities for encounters with—in addition to learning about—people from other cultures in a context designed to facilitate mutual understanding and appreciation.
Common Contexts courses must be taken at Westmont College or at an approved institution similar to those in the Christian College Consortium. In order to obtain the developmental benefits the general education program is designed to confer and to insure timely progress toward graduation, it is strongly recommended that students complete the Common Contexts requirements by the end of the second year.
Transfer students attending Westmont for three or fewer years must complete one requirement at Westmont from Biblical and Theological Canons for each full year of attendance at Westmont. Similarly, transfer students attending Westmont for two or fewer years must complete one requirement at Westmont from Introduction to the Christian Liberal Arts for each full year of attendance at Westmont. Transfer students are encouraged to complete the entire requirement in order to receive the full benefit of the General Education Program. Please note: Reapplicants who originally entered Westmont as first- year students are not considered transfer students regardless of the length of time they were away from Westmont or the number of units they “transfer” back to Westmont on their return.
Through completing these courses, students’ should increase their biblical and theological literacy, thereby gaining essential resources for the integration of faith and learning throughout the curriculum.
The two requirements in this section introduce students early in their time at Westmont to the nature and purpose of a Christian Liberal Arts education. By being introduced to the Christian liberal arts through a particular disciplinary or methodological lens, students begin working with the questions and the concerns that we hope will pervade their entire education at Westmont. These themes include, among others: an exploration of what it means to be human; what it means to live a good life; and what it means to pursue justice as a citizen of both this world and the Kingdom of God. As a result of having fulfilled these requirements, students will have an appreciation for the development of the Christian Liberal Arts tradition. In addition, they will be on their way to developing categories of critical evaluation, sensitivity to historical context, and other essential capacities of a liberally educated Christian.
Common Inquiries courses, collectively, seek to introduce students to a range of methodological approaches that one might employ in the quest for knowledge. These courses give particular attention to various ways of acquiring knowledge and evaluating information and incorporate appropriate consideration of the resources and implications of information technology. Students take courses to satisfy each of the following eight categories. A student may elect, as a one- time option, to use one qualified course to satisfy two Common Inquiries areas. A student who wishes to use AP, A-level, or IB credit to satisfy more than three Common Inquires requirements may do so by passing an appropriate advanced course and filing a petition with the Registrar.
Common Skills classes encourage students to develop their verbal, quantitative, or physical dexterity. Students are also expected to demonstrate competence in a wide range of contemporary information technology processes. To the extent that it is possible, students are encouraged to fulfill their skills requirements in the context of a course in the major or a course taken to satisfy another general education requirement. Until the requirements have been satisfied, it is recommended that students complete at least one Writing/Speech Intensive and one Physical Education course per year.
The expectation that students will put their education into action may be fulfilled in a variety of ways, some of which may be part of the student’s major. All students will complete one of the following two options: