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Skidmore College
Curriculum Committee


Guidelines for Culture-Centered Inquiry

Culture-Centered Inquiry:
To acquire the perspective available through study of unfamiliar cultural systems, each student must, prior to graduation, successfully complete one course designated by the Curriculum Committee as satisfying either the Non-Western Cultures or Cultural Diversity requirement.

1. Non-Western Cultures

In completing a Non-Western Cultures course, students are encouraged to study culture(s) markedly different from their own.

a. The students may focus on a particular dimension of a culture or culture-area (e.g., social institutions, artistic productions, religious beliefs, historical experiences) as an organizing principle, but that dimension must be continuously placed in reference to others that also significantly shape the culture(s) in question;

b. If the context for these courses is comparative and cross-cultural in nature, the students must study in depth a culture, cultures, or culture area; such comparative courses will be focused on a small number of cultures;

c. The students will focus on cultures that are neither European nor derived from European culture. This criterion will normally include the cultures of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the indigenous, pre-European cultures of Australia and of the Western Hemisphere. Courses concerning areas with both Western and non-Western elements such as the Near East or the Western Hemisphere must include a significant focus on non-Western culture or cultures, e.g., American Indians in the case of the Western Hemisphere, or Muslim peoples in the case of the Near East;

d. If the context for the course material is historical in nature, the students will not deal primarily with cultures from which Western culture is derived, e.g., ancient Greece or ancient Israel, nor with cultures that are primarily influenced by Western culture, e.g., modern Israeli, Brazilian, or Afro-American culture history, unless such a course meets criterion "c" above.

2. Cultural Diversity

In completing a Cultural Diversity course, students are encouraged to compare at least two markedly different cultures, one of which must be non-Western in origin.

a. Students investigate the interaction of peoples from culturally distinct origins within a given sociopolitical context. These courses may focus on diversity in the United States or on intercultural relations in other contexts. However, at least one of the groups examined will have non-Western origins;

b. Students examine the non-Western cultural forces that are manifest in the interaction of peoples of non-Western origin with peoples of Western backgrounds, and they pay particular attention to the cross-cultural influences that shape such interactions. These forces and influences will be examined from the perspectives of the peoples involved;

c. The sociopolitical context for the interaction between the groups studied need not be non-Western;

d. Students study interactions between two populations, one of which must be non-Western in origin. These may include diasporic populations that are not traditionally considered to be Western in origin (e.g., African-Americans, Asian-Americans, South African Indians) as well as commonly included non-Western populations.

Guidelines for Humanities Courses

Students examine and reflect upon human culture as expressed in historical tradition, literature and languages, art and music, ideas and beliefs. Students learn about diverse heritages, customs, and values that form patterns and analogies, but not general laws. Students also examine the influence of ideas on individual actions and their combined effects on larger social institutions and movements. Students learn about the humanities' search for an understanding of the unique value of the particulars within human contexts.

Courses in this category are typically, but not exclusively, offered in art history, classics, dance, literature (in English and in other languages) music, and philosophy.

Guidelines for Social Science Courses

Students study patterns of human behavior and institutions and social structures that human beings have created. They learn about the origins, functions, dynamics, and relations of large-scale social forces (such as institutions and cultures) and their intersections with the individual and small groups. Students may explore the connections between historical processes and contemporary social issues, examining how institutions and cultural patterns change over time. Social science uses scientific and/or humanistic approaches, relying on comparative analysis, theoretical modeling, and the analysis and interpretation of quantitative or qualitative data. Students learn the evaluative criteria for analyses of social phenomena.

Courses in the social sciences are typically, but not exclusively, offered in American studies, anthropology, economics, government, history, and sociology.

Guidelines for Natural Science Courses

Students actively engage in the process of understanding the natural world through the use of scientific methods. They gain some sense of the power of these methodologies in understanding our universe, as well as the limitations. Students study phenomena that are the product of natural processes and are primarily known through the senses rather than only through thought or intuition. Through the laboratory component of courses meeting this requirement, students will design and execute experiments (where appropriate as dictated by the discipline), collect data by observation and/or experimentation, and analyze data. Student learning goals thus include mastery of both content and process.

Courses in this category are typically, but not exclusively, offered in biology, chemistry, exercise science, geoscience, physics, and psychology.

(1) Students should have experience thinking about and working with objects and events that are known through the senses rather than only through thought or intuition.

(2) Students will participate in a weekly laboratory component of at least two hours. The laboratory and the classroom should form mutually interacting parts of a continuing conversation about the natural phenomena that students will study. In the laboratory, students should investigate and strive for scientific conclusions about those natural phenomena under study. Laboratory work should help students:

a. design and execute scientifically meaningful observations and/or measurements of particular natural systems;

b. appreciate the character of observational and measuring instruments and the relationships between the instruments and what is to be studied;

c. place observation and/or measurement in a larger scientific context and thereby assess the reasonableness of the data they collect;

d. organize, analyze, and interpret the data they collect and report conclusions in a scientifically meaningful way.

Guidelines for Arts Courses

Students actively engage in the making or performing of artworks as modes of creative invention, interpretation, expression, and discovery. Through the critique and analysis of artworks, students develop a context for and an understanding of their own creative output as well as the creations of others. The fundamental student learning goals include the advancement of technical proficiency and the refinement of critical aesthetic sensibility. Students directly experience the thought processes and actions involved in the creation of artistic forms and should learn how to analyze, interpret and criticize such forms.

Courses in this category are typically, but not exclusively, offered in creative writing, dance, music, studio (visual) art, and theater.

(1) Students will participate actively in the creation of art, literature or performance by focusing on skill development and/or the development of specialized techniques either through the creation of new work or through the performance of existing works. Students will develop a certain skill level that may be project-specific, or connected to a department's performance season.

(2) Students will engage in critical thinking and reflective thought as integral parts of the arts and the creative process. They will gain exposure to the historical, cultural, analytical, and/or critical appraisal and interpretation of artistic forms and will develop abilities to conceptualize, comprehend and to discuss the artistic process and its products.