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Yale’s distributional requirements stipulate two course credits in each of three disciplinary areas: the humanities and arts, the sciences, and the social sciences. Following is a brief description of each of these areas.
Study of the humanities and arts—those subjects that explore the full range of human thought, expression, and endeavor—cultivates an educated appreciation of the greatest accomplishments of the past and enriches the capacity to participate consciously in the life of our time. By engaging other civilizations, both ancient and modern, students gain insight into the experiences of others and enhance the critical examination of their own culture. Those who create or perform works of art experience firsthand the joy and discipline of artistic expression. Because students of the humanities and arts examine the value and purpose of all that surrounds them in a rigorous and systematic way, they acquire essential preparation for careers in many areas of modern life. But independently of any specific application, study of these subjects also fosters understanding of, and delight in, some of the highest achievements of the human spirit.
Acquiring a broad view of what science is, what it has achieved, and what it might continue to achieve is an essential component of a college education. Closer study of a science develops the critical faculties that educated citizens need. These include an ability to evaluate the opinions of experts, to distinguish quackery from responsible science, and to realize which things are known and which unknown—which are knowable and which unknowable—to science. Studying a science gives rise to new patterns of thought, as students participate in theoretical inquiry, experimental analysis, and firsthand problem solving. To know science is to appreciate a thousand intricate coherences in nature, which are hidden from casual observation but which, once revealed, lend richness to everyday life.
A helpful resource for students wishing to fulfill the science requirement is a list of courses designated Sc that do not have prerequisites. The list may be viewed at www.yale.edu/yalecollege/sqr/science/science.
Insights attained through the social sciences take on a critical significance at a time when the world’s population is increasing rapidly and diverse cultures are coming into closer contact and even conflict. Among the major subjects of inquiry in the social sciences are international and area studies. Those who have been educated in the United States ought especially to acquire knowledge of the societies of Africa, Latin America, Asia, and eastern Europe, as well as broaden their familiarity with the range of cultures in North America and western Europe. Questions of class, gender, and identity are also central to work in the social sciences. Methods in the social sciences test for connections between the familiar and the exotic, the traditional and the contemporary, the individual and the group, the predicted result and the anomalous outcome. Their theories propose explanations for the entire range of human phenomena: from governments and economies to social organizations, communicative systems, cultural practices, and the psychology of individuals.