Change Cultures and Civilizations Requirement

Read the proposal and vote directly on We the Middkids, and learn more about how you can get involved here. 

Read the recent changes made to the initial proposal in the recently passed SGA resolution.

Dear Middlebury community,

We are writing to you today because we strongly believe that Middlebury’s current system of academic requirements, more specifically the Culture and Civilizations requirement, is outdated. We believe that an institution like Middlebuy can adopt a better system, and we ask that you help us achieve that.

Our college claims to believe “that students should have a broad educational exposure to the variety of the world’s cultures and civilizations1;” however, its current Culture and Civilizations requirements do not reflect this belief. Students are required to take four different courses in each of the following categories:

a. AAL: courses that focus on some aspect of the cultures and civilizations of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Caribbean.

b. CMP: courses that focus on the process of comparison between and among cultures and civilizations, or courses that focus on the identity and experience of separable groups within cultures and civilizations.

c. EUR: courses that focus on some aspect of European cultures and civilizations.

d. NOR: courses that focus on some aspect of the cultures and civilizations of northern America (United States and Canada)

Under the current requirements, the college seems to place an emphasis on the study of Western cultures and civilizations, while minimizing the importance of all other cultures and civilizations of the world by lumping them together into one category. Not only are these requirements failing to reflect our college’s belief about the importance of the study of different cultures and civilizations, but they are also limiting educational opportunities for students. With the pressure to fulfill the Culture and Civilizations requirements, students who have already taken an AAL course are forced to take courses that fulfill a EUR or NOR requirement over courses that might only give them another AAL requirement, but covers a different region than their previous AAL class (i.e. one class called Trade and Foreign Aid in Latin America and another called African Politics).

Although we see the importance in the study of Europe and North America, we feel that the study of the other regions of the world holds great value as well. Furthermore, we understand what might be the logic behind the NOR requirement, since our institution is located in North America, but we believe that the EUR requirement and the lumping of many regions into an AAL requirement is not justified.

Because of this, we would like to propose an alternative to the current distribution requirements that would improve the current system and provide students with a greater opportunity to be exposed to classes focused on different cultures and civilizations.

Under our proposed alternative, students would be required to take two courses in different geographic areas and one focused on North America; however, the requirement to take courses in EUR would be removed. Students would be required to take:

a. Two courses that focuses on some aspect of the cultures and civilization of:

a. AFR: Africa
b. ASI: Asia
c. LAC: Latin America and the Caribbean
d. MDE: the Middle East
e. EUR: Europe

b. NOR: one course that focus on some aspect of the cultures and civilizations of northern America (United States and Canada)

c. CMP: one course that focuses on the process of comparison between and among cultures and civilizations, or a course that focus on the identity and experience of separable groups within cultures and civilizations.

In this way the Middlebury College curriculum will not only better reflect our community standards but also students will have a more egalitarian exposure to different cultures and civilizations. Moving forward we hope that these suggestions are seriously taken into account as a step in the right direction for creating a more inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds.

Sincerely,

Daniela Barajas ’14.5
Rana Abdelhamid ’15

1.http://www.middlebury.edu/about/handbook/academics/Degree_Programs_and_Projects#dist

One thought on “Change Cultures and Civilizations Requirement

  1. Daniela and Rana, thank you for writing this. I strongly agree with you that the Culture and Civilizations requirement is biased.

    However, I disagree that North America should be a requirement. Students who went to school in the U.S. before college already have a basic knowledge of U.S. culture and history; it may be more important for these students to take, for example, one course relating to Africa and one relating to the Caribbean (which are largely neglected in U.S. education). I believe that the categories you have proposed should be created, but I think that instead of requiring that students take one North America course and one other course, students should be required to take any two categories they choose. (In addition to the Comparative category.)

    But yes, in principle, I agree and I support this idea. If there’s anything I can do to help further the cause, please let me know.

    Ash Babcock
    ababcock@middlebury.edu

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