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West In Time: Goals

Critical Perspectives: The West in Time asks students to position their knowledge of the broader world not just through multifaceted inquiry into “the here and now” but through critical inquiry across time as well. As an all-college requirement, The West in Time acknowledges the crucial importance of understanding the past as the context out of which contemporary modes of inquiry and contemporary fields of study have grown.

The West in Time is a two-block, two-unit course in which students will explore compelling aspects of the Western experience over a significant period of time (antiquity to the modern period or the Middle Ages to the modern period). This Critical Perspectives requirement acknowledges the modern Western propensity to create cultural and historical narratives that assume development and progress over time. It also insists on the importance of understanding the contemporary Western ‘self’ in the context of previous iterations of the ‘self.’ Courses in this area of inquiry will accomplish some combination of the following: 

  • Engage students in an exploration of the past through examination of ideas, events, cultural institutions, and practices;
  • Enable students to expand their understanding of narratives of the development of the Western tradition over time and provide them with the analytical tools to critique those narratives;
  • Engage students in critical analysis of the connections between the past and the present;
  • Encourage students to consider how our understanding of contemporary events is informed by our grasp of the historical past. 
Please be aware that anyone receiving a Critical Perspectives designation for one or more of their courses is implicitly agreeing to participate in a general education assessment process about once every three years. The process is not difficult and, if done well, may be helpful to you in your Critical Perspectives teaching.