General Education: The
Human Community is the core academic
program of James Madison University. It is required of all students regardless
of their major or professional program. JMU’s general education program seeks
to educate students in ways that have been fundamental to higher education and
to thinking people for centuries. The philosophy of the program promotes the
cultivation of habits of the mind and heart that are essential to informed
citizens in a democracy and world community. The program is committed to
helping students develop their ability to reason and make ethical choices; to
appreciate beauty and understand the natural and social worlds they live in;
and to recognize the importance of the past and work toward a better future.
By providing a strong
foundation of knowledge, skills and experiences expected of all educated
people, The Human Community prepares students to become flexible thinkers
and life-long learners. This core of knowledge, skills and experiences
transcends every major and professional program and is essential for successful
and rewarding careers and lives. The program encourages students to become
active in their own education and deliberate in making good choices for
themselves and in connection with others.
In a rapidly changing world,
it is increasingly important that students learn how to create knowledge out of
the vast amounts of available information and place that knowledge in its
appropriate contexts. The role of general education is to introduce these
concepts, so students understand that knowledge seldom develops in isolation,
but rather within larger interactive, often competing contexts.
As students study intensively
in their chosen field, they also take The Human Community courses in
which they can come to understand how distinct disciplines look at the world
from different vantage points, using different methodologies, different tools
and different kinds of answers, reasons or evidence. Thus, the General
Education Program and the major or professional program complement and complete
each other; together they are integral and essential components of a student’s
full and proper education.
The mission of The Human
Community is four-fold.
§ To graduate students who will be
informed citizens, well prepared to participate in public life and public
§ To provide students with critical skills
in reasoning, communication and technology that build a strong foundation for
course work at JMU as well as for their lives and careers after college.
§ To introduce students to core areas of
knowledge that are central to the history of western civilization, including
its interactions with other traditions within the global community.
§ To invite students to know themselves
intellectually, emotionally and physically and to consider the connections
between values and behavior.
Structure: Course Work in each of Five Clusters
The Human Community provides fundamental knowledge and skills across the
breadth of traditional disciplines so that students learn how to do the
§ Think and communicate effectively
§ Appreciate the arts and humanities as an
essential component of the human experience (Cluster Two).
§ Recognize the relevance of science and
mathematics in the world they inhabit (Cluster Three).
§ Identify ways in which political, social
and economic forces shape American and global experiences (Cluster Four).
§ Understand themselves both as
individuals and as members of various groups in society (Cluster Five).
In each of these five
clusters, students choose and complete a multidisciplinary grouping of courses.
These courses together challenge students to make connections among disciplines
while satisfying all of the learning objectives of each cluster. Every grouping
of courses forms a coherent and integrated body of knowledge, and students must
be consistent in completing the course work of each cluster.
Because Cluster One provides
the necessary college-level skills of critical thinking, technology, writing
and speech, all students must meet Cluster One requirements during their first
year. It is strongly recommended that all students complete Cluster Three: The
Natural World by the end of their second year. If students need to defer
completion of any of the Cluster One requirements, they may request a deferral
from the Dean of General Education.
General Education Requirements
General Education Program
Students acquire knowledge of
past and present achievements of our own and other cultures in the arts,
letters and sciences; of the impact of people, institutions and communities
involved in the creation, preservation and transmission of culture and of the
distinctions and interconnections among disciplines. This includes knowledge of
§ The world’s great literary,
philosophical and religious traditions.
§ The historical and social context of
major political, intellectual, religious, economic, scientific and cultural
§ The evidence, ideas and models needed to
understand how people relate to each other, to institutions and to communities.
§ The evidence, ideas and models to make
informed and responsible judgments about the physical world.
§ Major achievements in the fine arts of
our own and other civilizations and the cultural, social and historical context
in which they were created.
§ Values, ethics and legal issues in a
§ The wellness issues involved in
encouraging lifestyle choices necessary for sustaining health and well-being.
Students learn the skills of
perception, research and investigation; the critical analyses needed to cope
with problems and find solutions and the written, oral and electronic
communication skills requisite to shaping ideas and transmitting them
persuasively. These skills include the following abilities.
§ To communicate purposefully through
reading, writing, speaking and listening effectively and through the use of
§ To use the investigative, analytical,
quantitative and critical thinking skills needed to examine alternatives and make
§ To perceive and make informed aesthetic
choices and analyses about the artistic use of sound, movement and images.
§ To identify, locate and evaluate
information sources in both traditional and electronic forms.
§ To interact effectively in interpersonal
and intercultural group situations.
Students will actively engage
in reflection about aesthetic and ethical concerns and the diversity of human
values through experiences that transcend the limits of specialization. This is
evident when students
§ Become independent, creative and
§ Gain an understanding of the academic
community and its application to broader communities.
§ Cooperate and collaborate when working
with other people.
§ Examine the influence of culture on
one’s own perceptions and treat others with dignity, respect and civility.