It's time to consider non-Western Humanities

At Geneseo, the Western Humanities I and II requirement stands as one of the most revered (and for some, hated) elements of the college's general education requirements. The classes, billed as, "A search for moral, social and political alternatives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture and literature of Western Civilization" from earliest times to the present, are meant to facilitate a thorough understanding of the philosophical and historical groundings of our society. This, in turn, should encourage active civic understanding and involvement in the Western culture in which we live.

Recently, discussion has been raised through the College's Task Force for Curriculum Review and at the recent blackface forum about the possibility of the addition of a non-Western Humanities requirement, implementing schools of thought outside the realm of the classical European/Greco-Roman texts. While we at The Lamron maintain a strong faith in the importance of the Humanities requirement, we also believe that the implementation of a Non-Western Humanities is a legitimate action that the college should pursue.

The argument can be raised that as we live in a Western society, it is only necessary that Western history and schools of thought be integrated in a Humanities requirement that encourages civic involvement in the West. But the reality is that by limiting ourselves to Plato etc., we are doing ourselves a disservice. We live in an increasingly global society, where once significant borders now mean little, and teachings of Buddha or Sun Tzu hold an equal validity in the academic realm as those of Thucydides and Jesus. One non-Western Traditions course, as currently dictated by general education requirements, cannot do justice to the full range of important non-Western texts that could serve as valuable classroom material, furthering an understanding of not just non-Western thought, but a larger view of Western society's place in an increasingly-connected planet.

The addition of a Humanities III, or, alternatively, amending Humanities I and II so as to include non-Western texts, will undoubtedly require the utilization of a significant amount of resources for curriculum review and the re-training of professors. We would not claim to be in a position to dictate to the administration the wisest course of action in this realm, but call on the Provost and other figures to explore ways through which non-Western Humanities can be implemented in some form, even if it will take years. Ultimately, it is the same necessity that dictated the original formation of the Humanities I and II requirements, to facilitate understanding of one's place in the world, which mandates the program's expansion outside the realm of its current, limited scope.

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