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Core vs General Education Requirements

Sesquipedalian4Sesquipedalian4 Registered User Posts: 85 Junior Member
What is the difference between Chicago's Core and the more common Gen. Ed.'s? It seems like both of them define general themes of classes, and everyone is required to take a certain number of classes in each theme. When I was at Chicago for their admitted student weekend, I asked a few of the students there what the difference was, and they didn't really seem to know, even though they were quite eager to cite the Core as an advantage that Chicago has over Princeton, which has Gen. Ed.'s.

Replies to: Core vs General Education Requirements

  • ttm321ttm321 Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    No one is answering, so I'll try. (Uchicago parent here.). I know nothing about Princeton, but in general, with Gen Ed requirements you can dabble. Take a course here and there of varying difficulties and with possibly no connection between them other than that they fall under the same broad, general categories. With the core you are in deep. You choose sequences of Humanities or Social Sciences or Science and you stay with each of them for three quarters. (Plus two to three quarters for Civ. Art requirements seem more singleton.) On the humanities and social sciences side the core is based on reading and analyzing the great works of literature, philosophy and political thought. Everyone else is doing the same. It makes for a deep, challenging and heady intellectual journey and intellectual community. Some people love it, some don't, but in my opinion all are better for the experience.

    For more info check out the various school's course catalogs.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,939 Senior Member
    The real advantage of the Core (if there is one) is that there is a substantial body of material that 100% of students (more or less) have engaged with on a pretty intense level. That tends to make it a lot easier for people to discuss big questions notwithstanding they are in different fields and have different interests; they can refer back with confidence to a body of sophisticated ideas with confidence that their interlocutors will understand what they are talking about.

    On the surface, it looks like Columbia's Core, in which everyone (except the engineers) takes the same courses, does that much better than Chicago's Chinese-menu-style Core (two from Column A, one from Column B . . .). The reality, however, is that there is much more overlap among the various Hum and Sosc offerings at Chicago than the course descriptions might lead you to believe.

    That is on top of the virtue that every decent gen ed program has, which is that everyone understands at least a little about what everyone else is doing.

    I have written this before about the Core, what I observed of my children and their friends: All of them went to Chicago in part at least because they liked the idea of the Core. All of them pretty much disliked the Core while they were taking it, although sometimes the dislike was mild, and sometimes a particular teacher would hit the student's sweet spot and there would be a wonderful educational experience for a while. By the time they were fourth years, and thereafter, especially after spending time in the world interacting with peers that they didn't go to college or high school with, they tended to appreciate the value of the Core a lot more than they did while they were taking it.


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