The Shimer College core curriculum was instituted in 1950. It was modeled on the Great Books [Hutchins] Program of the University of Chicago. Currently, the core comprises 16 of the 24 courses required for graduation. Every student takes these courses, and every faculty member teaches them. The core consists of nearly every recognized great author in the Western canon. The 16 required courses are distributed equally in Interpretive Studies, the Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. The aim of the core is to give every Shimer graduate a thorough grounding in the basic texts of the Western tradition.
The core curriculum is carefully designed to provide a context for integrative thinking both vertically -- the integration of courses within each area, and horizontally -- the integration between the various areas of study, and integration between ideas.
Vertical integration is found in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences sequences: Each course relates to the earlier courses in that area by taking concepts and materials from them and building upon them. . . Horizontal integration is found in the interdisciplinary use of authors, works, and themes. For instance, various works of Descartes are read in Integrative Studies 2, Natural Sciences 1, and Humanities 3, while works of Aristotle are read in Integrative studies 2, Natural Sciences 1, Social Sciences 2, Natural Sciences 2, Humanities 3 and Integrative Studies 5. . . . Homer's Odyssey is viewed as a work of literature in Humanities 2, whereas his Iliad is viewed as an historical document in Integrative Studies 5. . . . The change from the ancient view of the city to a sixteenth and seventeenth conception of the state (Social Sciences 2) is paralleled by revolutions in science (Natural Sciences 1), mathematics (Integrative Studies 2), and art (Humanities 1). . . In Integrative Studies 2, Einstein's Relativity is viewed as an axiomatic system; in Natural Sciences 3 it is viewed as scientific explanation. . .
This integrative, interdisciplinary curriculum creates a common background for students. At the same time, it provides a conscious force encouraging the faculty to continue their education in order to expand their acquaintance with and understanding of unfamiliar academic as. . . . A significant aim of the curriculum, then, is this integrative attitude among students and the faculty....
The Basic Integrative Studies Courses develop [the] skills [of] systematic reasoning, critical inquiry, and expression. . . . The four humanities courses attempt to acquaint students with the imaginative representation and the more systematic explorations of the conditions of human existence . . . The Natural Science courses [lead] gently but surely from the early Greek hooked atom to the sophisticated Bohr atom . . . from the static world of nineteenth century chemistry through the evolutionary world view of Darwln . . . The four courses [of] Social Sciences . organize human experiences and analyze them in a disciplined and scientific manner. . .