TCNJ Undergraduate Bulletin 2002-2003

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The Nature and Role of General Education at The College of New Jersey


An undergraduate education at The College of New Jersey includes intensive instruction in a major program of study and extensive grounding in general education. The major enables students to become familiar with the content and methods of a particular discipline and thus to prepare for related careers, graduate studies, or professional schools. General education promotes learning that is of value to students, whatever careers or advanced degrees they may choose to pursue.
The College of New Jersey’s general education program is based on the premise that the real measure of success in general education is not what courses students take, but what they learn and retain. To this end, The College has developed a comprehensive set of learning goals and outcomes. Although students may vary considerably in areas of strength and degrees of proficiency, The College expects all of its graduates to achieve at least basic knowledge and proficiency in each of the following 12 goals:

  1. To develop the ability to read and listen critically, and to write and speak clearly and effectively in standard English.
  2. To develop quantitative skills and an understanding of important concepts and methods of mathematics.
  3. To develop the ability to collect, analyze, and interpret information and to communicate the results to others.
  4. To develop critical reasoning skills in the use of analogy, deduction, and induction.
  5. To develop the ability to solve widely varied problems.
  6. To develop the ability to make informed judgments concerning ethical values.
  7. To develop an understanding of concepts and methods in the social sciences.
  8. To develop an understanding of important concepts and methods of the sciences.
  9. To develop an understanding of the nature and role of technology and its impact on the environment and society through the study of the development and application of tools, machines, and knowledge for the achievement of practical purposes.
  10. To develop an understanding of the aesthetic and intellectual experience in literature and the arts.
  11. To develop historical consciousness through an understanding of the history of world civilizations, the beliefs and ideals of world cultures, and the evolution of a global civilization.
  12. To develop an understanding of diverse cultures.
    A thirteenth goal is required only of degree candidates in the Schools of Art, Media, and Music; Culture and Society; and Science:
  13. To develop the ability to comprehend, speak, read, and write a language other than English.


The courses and requirements in The College’s general education program are the principal means of enabling students to achieve these goals. The three parts of this program—Intellectual Skills, the Interdisciplinary Core, and Perspectives on the World—are designed to help provide the following benefits.

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Intellectual Skills help provide the tools that students need to make the transition from high school to college and from college to lifelong learning. In order to do college-level work, all students need reasonable proficiency in writing, speaking, critical thinking, and mathematics. Degree candidates in the Schools of Art, Media, and Music; Culture and Society; and Science are also asked to achieve skills sufficient to enable them to comprehend, speak, read, and write a language other than English. By the time students graduate, they should be able to use these skills in the practice of their majors, for their own enrichment, and as means of advancement in their chosen professions.

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The Interdisciplinary Core The title and theme of the core, “Understanding Humanity,” was chosen because of its breadth, challenge, and importance. Like the Psalmist who asked of God, “What is man that thou are mindful of him?” We still puzzle today over our place in the scheme of things. Should we regard ourselves as “the measure of all things,” as “a little lower than the angels,” or as “leaky sacks of amino acids?” What are we to make of our kinship with other animals? How can we achieve greater appreciation of both the diversity and common threads of human experience?
Although the design of the core takes account of recent debates over the canon (the classics), it is not addressed to those debates. The topics and readings in each core course are selected to meet the shared educational needs of the community of learners at The College of New Jersey. We need to be familiar with works and ideas that shaped the complex union of native and immigrant peoples that is this country. As citizens of an increasingly interdependent world, we need knowledge and appreciation of other cultures and civilizations. As human beings, we need a critical understanding of gender issues. All this should be understood through the study of what is timely as well as what is timeless.

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Perspectives on the World courses provide students with opportunities to expand their knowledge by deepening their acquaintance with the principles and practices of key intellectual and artistic disciplines:

  • Natural and Social Scientific Perspectives. Since its emergence in the 17th century as a distinct way of investigating the world, scientific method has provided a powerful means for explaining and sometimes predicting natural and social phenomena. Courses approved for this requirement are designed to introduce students to the methods and contents of sciences that study nature, society, and the individual.
  • Humanistic and Artistic Perspectives. Humanistic and artistic perspectives are as old as the human species and are integral parts of human history. As ways of investigating the world, the arts and humanities stress meanings and values rather than quantifiable data and predictive theories. To increase appreciation of these disciplines, students are asked to supplement the broad learning gained in the Interdisciplinary Core by taking approved courses in greater depth in each of the areas listed below.

Among the most important features of education at The College of New Jersey is the understanding and appreciation of diversity. This emphasis, which is reflected in the Interdisciplinary Core, is reinforced in general education’s diversity distribution, the requirement that at least one course a student selects from Perspectives on the World focus on a non-Western, Native-American, or Third-World culture, one course focus on some aspect of Western cultures, and one course focus on gender studies.
To ensure the effectiveness of the general education program, The College of New Jersey must assess the success of its students in achieving the program’s learning goals and outcomes. This requires student cooperation. By accepting admission to The College of New Jersey, a student agrees to help strengthen the quality of his or her education by participating in assessment activities such as written tests, focus groups, and portfolio reviews.

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2002 The College of New Jersey
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Last Updated: 05/29/2002