Boston University's Core Curriculum began in Fall 1989 as part of a university-wide effort to ensure a set of curricular standards for all undergraduates. It has become an essential part of the curriculum in BU's College of Liberal Arts, one of the two ways in which incoming freshmen can complete general education requirements in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. (...Six divisional studies credits distributed among the divisions outside [a student's] major [form the alternative]....)
Among the distinctive aims of BU's Core is its commitment to a humanities-based program that integrates the natural and social sciences. The curriculum for the humanities and social science sequences is almost entirely made up of the study of important texts in their entirety ... rather than a broader range of books read only in fragments. Students read, for example, all of Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. The Core also places particular stress on student writing, requiring a total of 25 pages of assigned writing over the course of each semester, not counting the mid-term and final examinations which themselves are heavily weighted toward essays.
BU's Core consists of a four-semester humanities sequence (CC101, The Ancient World; 102, Antiquity and the Medieval World; 201, The Renaissance; and 202, the Enlightenment and Modernity), a two-semester natural sciences sequence (CC103, Evolution of Life and Intelligence; and 104, Evolution of the Physical Universe and the Earth) and a two-semester, social sciences, discussion-oriented seminar (in which class size is limited to around 25 students). The seminars are taught almost entirely by regular faculty in the divisions (many of whom regularly teach one or two courses per year for Core) and one or two faculty members who have appointments within Core itself. (All grading is done by the instructors themselves, although students in each course take a common examination.) Students in each course are also required to attend a lecture series for that course which presents a set of perspectives on the assigned texts by specialists in relevant fields.
BU has also recently embarked on a new initiative in the training of instructors for undergraduate Core Curriculum programs: a postdoctoral fellowship funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Fellows are appointed to a three-year internship, in which they work closely with senior faculty in the first two years and teach a section of Core in the third year. The first two fellows were appointed in the Fall of 1994; two succeeding classes of fellows will enter the internship program in Fall 1995 and Fall 1996.
[The following represents, but does not exhaust the texts used in] the humanities sequence at BU: CC101: Gilgamesh; the Bible (Genesis and Samuel); the Odyssey; Aeschylus, Oresteia.
CC102: Confucius Analects; Bhagavad-Gita; Epictetus, Enchiridion; Vergil, Aeneid; Gospel of John; Augustine, Confessions.
CC201: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; Petrarca, "Ascent of Mount Ventoux"; Cervantes, Don Quixote; Descartes Discourse on Method; Milton, Paradise Lost.
CC202: Pope, "Essay on Man"; Rousseau, Confessions; Goethe, Faust; Wollenstonecraft, "Vindication of the Rights of Woman"; Whitman, "Song of Myself"; Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil; King, "Where Do We Go From Here?"
The social science core [includes and extends beyond] the following texts: CC 203: Thucydides, The Peloponnesian Wars; Sima Qian, Shi Ji; Rousseau, The Social Contract; Locke, Second Treatise on Government; Smith, The Wealth of Nations; Malthus, Essay on the Principle of Population; Darwin, Origin of the Species; Marx and Engels, selections; Weber, Protestant Ethic.
CC 204: Durkheim, Elementary Forms of Religious Life; W. James, Varieties of Religious Experience; Freud, The Ego and the Id; Mead, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies; Fanon, Black Skin White Masks; Bellah, et al., Habits of the Heart.