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>> Faculty revamps the Western Civ offering yet again.
When Chicago undergrads received the 2002-03 class schedule this spring, one change in the course offerings quickly made campus news. History of Western Civilization will be joined this fall by the new civilization studies sequence European Civilization, modeled after the Ancient Mediterranean World sequence launched two years ago. History of Western Civilization will continue to be taught during the regular academic year and the summer quarter, but fewer sections will be offered.

IMAGE:  A familiar volume for Western Civ students.

A familiar volume for Western Civ students

Introduced in 1949 as a requirement in the College's general-education curriculum, Western Civ is now one of 24 offerings that satisfy the College's civilization studies requirement. (In fact, Western Civ has not been a universal College requirement since 1966.) For at least some alumni and students-including a dozen or so who handed out flyers protesting the apparent decline of Western Civilization at the April 12 dinner marking the launch of the Chicago Initiative fund-raising campaign-Western Civ is a University icon; its seminar-style discussion classes and close reading of original historical documents and other primary sources are synonymous with education in the College.

As an April 9 Maroon editorial put it, "The Western Civ program, perhaps more than any other currently offered class, embodies the hallowed scholastic tradition of the classic Chicago common education."

Responding in the April 12 Maroon, Donald N. Levine, AB'50, AM'54, PhD'57, the Peter B. Ritzma professor and former dean of the College, took a different view: "As I understand it, what most distinguishes the Chicago tradition of general education has been not any particular course or curricular structure, but a process of faculty inquiry into the currently defensible aims of liberal education and the best available local means of pursuing them."

Designed by members of the history faculty over the past several years, the new civilization studies sequences, like Western Civ, emphasize seminar-style discussion and close reading of primary texts. Each consists of a two-quarter course raising general issues over a period of time (1,600 years in the case of European Civilization), followed by an optional one-quarter "major problems" seminar in which students will focus on an issue in depth and write a major research paper. Seminar topics scheduled for European Civilization this fall include the 18th-century Enlightenment and the origins of the British Empire.

A more complete course description, plus a history of the civilization studies requirement in the College, can be found in a letter written by the European Civilization staff (


  JUNE 2002

  > > Volume 94, Number 5

  > >
The End of Consulting?
  > >
Records of a Revolution
  > >
Campus of the Big Ideas
  > >
You Go Girl!

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  > > Books
  > > Deaths

  > > Investigations

  > > Editor's Notes

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  > > Chicagophile
  > > e-Bulletin: 06/14/02



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