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General Education

General Education
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General Education

Introduction to General Education

Your classes at New Paltz will provide the basis of your intellectual development. Not only will you gain exposure to knowledge, but you’ll also explore new perspectives, ways of thinking, arguing and being. We want to cultivate your habits of ethical reflection and empathy, critical thinking, and make or critique arguments about the important issues that face our world. Through your courses, you will learn how to think instead of what to think and develop a capacity for lifetime learning.

Through your university education, you will: acquire a foundation of knowledge that will enable you to engage with different aspects of our world, specialize in one area of knowledge, and know how to use and communicate this knowledge. While you will specialize in your major, SUNY New Paltz’s General Education program will provide you with a broad knowledge base and essential communication skills.

Your General Education program is organized around three basic areas:

  1. skills in basic communication, mathematics, and foreign language.
  2. disciplinary knowledge in art, the humanities, and the natural and social sciences.
  3. study of the regions of the world.

Below you will learn about how courses are organized into these categories.

These courses will build a foundation of knowledge and skills which you will draw upon your entire life.  Your General Education courses will also prepare you to choose a major and specialize in one academic field.  Most students choose a major in their sophomore or junior year.   After completing your major, you will be qualified to work within that particular field and confidently engage other scholars or practitioners.  In all courses, you will explore content specific knowledge alongside faculty experts.

General Education Category I: Foundational Skills

All modern education must ensure that students can use words and numbers. Our General Education requirements serve this basic purpose. You are required to take one course in Math (MATH), Composition (BCOM), and one or two courses designed to help you achieve an intermediate level of proficiency in a Foreign Language (FLN) of your choice.

Math (MATH)

This course enables you to explore numbers and the perspectives they provide on time and space. You will develop your mathematical knowledge beyond what you learned in high school and be able to apply mathematical approaches in a variety of settings.

Basic Composition (BCOM)

In this course, you will begin to refine your ability to write, speak effectively, and communicate with others. It is impossible to express your knowledge and ideas without these skills. Although you will continue to develop your oral and written skills in your major, this course will provide an important foundation.

Foreign Language (FLN)

Language courses are essential for life in a globalized world.  When learning a language, you will develop your ability to read, write, speak, and listen to others while also expanding your understanding of the culture or cultures in which that language is spoken. Your basic training in grammar and syntax will also help you reach the communications goals of General Education.

General Education Category II:  Exposure to the Disciplines

Our General Education curriculum includes classes in four academic disciplines. These reflect very different ways of knowing. Each discipline has rigorous methods for constructing knowledge that is discoverable, teachable, and will transform your intellect. By taking classes in these disciplines, you will come to understand how artists, humanists, natural and social scientists answer questions about the world, the universe, and ourselves.

Art (ART): Disciplines exploring creation, production, and innovation through materials and concepts of visual culture

Artistic inquiry is pursued by engaging in creative processes guided by curiosity, scholarship, and imagination. In this course, you will be introduced to creative and critical thinking skills and techniques. You will learn how to think, speak, and write about artistic experiences.  Your exposure to artistic knowledge will enable you to learn the social, cultural, and historical contexts from which they emerge.

Humanities (HUM): Disciplines exploring what it means to be human

The humanities explore individual and group cultural expressions in language, text, or images today or over time. This discipline acknowledges our complexity while developing the tools to understand what we make meaningful and how we express meaning.  In your humanities course, you will thus analyze works of literature, drama, art, and rituals to determine what they reflect about human experience. This course will enable you to reflect on what it means to be human by exploring individual identities and how they come together in societies, political systems, and cultural behaviors.

Natural Science (NSCI): Disciplines to explore our natural world

The natural sciences rely on the scientific method to explain processes in living organisms and in the physical environment. These range from microscopic organisms to the stars and galaxies of the universe.  In this class, you will develop hypotheses, observe physical and biological phenomena, and evaluate data to draw conclusions. By learning the scientific method, you will engage in important debates about human interaction with the physical world.

Social Science (SSCI): Disciplines exploring your social self

The social sciences explain why and how human beings interact with each other as well as the outcomes of that interaction. Scholars explain behavior by studying economic, cultural, and social interactions, and how they change over space and time.  A class in the social sciences may explore values and beliefs, decision making processes, and social structures to better explain human behavior. This is a broad field of inquiry that relies on both quantitative statistical methods as well as qualitative interpretive methods.

General Education Category III: Regions

By studying regions of the world, you will explore questions about identity including who you are and how you may differ from others. The study of the United States (USST), Western Civilization (WEST), and World Civilizations and Cultures (WRLD) will help you become an informed, engaged, and critical citizen of the world.

United States Studies (USST)

In these courses, you will learn about historical, political, social, economic, and/or cultural developments in the United States. This requirement builds on the basic outline of US history taught in New York State high schools. But rather than learn the “right” answer for a test, you will be expected to ask rigorous and genuine questions, challenge others’ arguments, and develop complex answers. These are skills needed for democratic citizenship.

Western Civilization (WEST)

The focus of these courses will be the historical influence of ideas and institutions from “western” traditions on our political, social, and religious communities. Courses cover the arts, ideas, cultures, governments, or religions of Europe and their overseas territories.

Other World Civilizations (WRLD)

These courses may study the histories, cultures, and practices of any non-US, non-European area of the world or take a broad approach to one issue and its impact around the world. You will critically reflect on the cultural and political constructions of different regions of the world. But 'Other World' does not just imply a study of difference. By taking one of these courses, you will learn to make links between cultures and develop ideas about what is universal and what is particular in human nature and societies.