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Diversity and Social Justice in General Education: New Curricular Models

The College of St. Catherine

All students at The College of St. Catherine are required to take a course on "The Global Search for Justice." These seminars are multi-disciplinary and are designed for juniors and seniors. Their general focus is an in-depth examination of the conditions of justice experienced by a people or peoples outside the European/North American cultures. Several versions of the courses are offered each semester, each one focusing on a different problem of justice or geographical region of the world. Past seminars have focused on such issues as: Women and Health, Latin America, Environmental Justice, Women and Work, and Voices of Dissent. All sections of this course share certain common elements. Each section must have as a major theme a close examination of non-Western cultures. Students must also study issues of social justice that cut across two or more cultures, including a culture outside of North America/Europe or a minority culture within our dominant culture. Because this is a capstone course, students are also asked to complete a research project and engage in serious critical debate on justice issues. Selected sections of this course have also incorporated community service-learning components and study abroad options, including a program in Mexico. These course sections are also developed by faculty teams who regularly teach the courses and meet while they are teaching to support one another's work.


University of California, San Diego

In a three-quarter, sequenced and required course offered through the Thurgood Marshall College, students examine various dimensions of culture including diversity, justice, and imagination. The first quarter introduces students to the study of basic distinctions of social differences and commonalities among human individuals and groups. This class surveys a range of social differences and stratifications that shape the nature of human attachment to self, work, community, and a sense of nation. The second quarter's segment, "Justice," is designed to introduce students to basic features of American politics, law, and society. Readings are drawn from American history, with a strong emphasis on original sources and especially on Supreme Court opinions. While the first quarter segment introduces students to academic and public arguments pertaining to race, class, gender, ethnicity, and sex, the second quarter segment examines the political and Constitutional history of these and other publicly significant social differences. In the third segment of this sequence of courses, "Imagination," students examine representations of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and sex in American literature and film.


State University of New York, Potsdam

As part of AAC&U's American Commitments Initiative, Professor Richard J. DelGuidice created a course called "U.S. Pluralism and the Pursuits of Justice" that fulfills several general education requirements. This course examines the impact of U.S. governmental policy on people of color. It identifies some of the cultural values inherent in American law and provides perspectives on U.S. history that differ from that which most students are familiar. The course uses such texts as Donald G. Nieman's Promises to Keep: African Americans and the Constitutional Order, Ronald Takaki's A Different Mirror, and John R. Wunder's Retained by the People: A History of American Indians and the Bill of Rights to examine what role race has played in U.S. history and how marginalized groups have participated in the American political process. The course begins with a discussions of Peggy McIntosh's article, "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies." DelGuidice believes that this is an essential starting point to reduce resistance on the part of white, middle-class students. To see an article on DelGuidice's experiences teaching diversity courses as a white man, see Diversity Digest, Fall, 1997.


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