In “Significant Other,” Conor Skelding examines the Core at the University of Chicago and how it compares to our own. Look for this and more in the April issue of The Blue & White, on campus this week.
Illustration by Chantal McStay, CC '15
The Core Curriculum is the defining feature of Columbia College’s intellectual identity. Undergraduates who chose Columbia specifically for its curriculum—seeking the “wide- ranging perspectives on classic works of literature, philosophy, history, music, art, and science” touted by Columbia brochures—very probably also considered the University of Chicago.
On the surface, the schools are similar: both undergraduate colleges are situated within a prominent research university in a major metropolis, and both boast a robust general education grounded in the Western canon. In addition, both venerable curricula are undergoing significant changes as they adapt to contemporary sentiments in education.
Still, for all they have in common, these two educations are far from identical. Chicago’s “Common Core” is not organized around cornerstone courses like Columbia’s Lit Hum and CC. Rather, their Common Core requires that students choose two or three “Hume” courses, three Social Science (“Sosc”) classes, two or three under Civilization, and one or two in Art, Music, or Drama. It’s not “Common” at all. Finally, students must take five to seven math and science courses (far more rigorous than Frontiers), in addition to fulfilling language and physical education requirements.
These various tracks provide a self-selective slant to Chicago’s Core: while some are less demanding, others offer a rigorous, traditional sequence in the Great Books. For instance, students on the Classics track engage deeply with the same thinkers taught in Lit Hum and CC. More zealous students major in “Foundations,” a deep and broad sequence in the traditional liberal arts, which spans all four years. Columbia, on the other hand, takes a more centralized approach: one track for all, Global Core and science requirements excepted.