A dissenting minority on the UCSB GE Task Force submitted a report in favor of retaining a Western Civilization requirement, which was appended to the Task Force's first final report in June 2001 (link). pdf version of this minority report for printing

May 14, 2001

To: Richard Watts, Chair
UCSB Academic Senate

From: The Dissenting Minority of the Academic Senate Task Force on General Education

RE: Recommendation for a Western Civilization Requirement

The dissenting minority of the GE Task Force wants most strongly to recommend that the proposed revisions outlined in the "General Education Task Force Proposal" be amended to include a Western Civilization requirement of at least one course. We would frame the Western Civilization requirement much like--and alongside--the Ethnic Studies requirement, so that courses meeting the Western Civilization requirement could fall in Core areas 1, 2, 3, or 4.

Rationale for the Requirement

All Task Force members seem agreed that General Education should cultivate in students the historical perspective, conceptual sophistication, and reasoning skills that are necessary for thinking in an informed, critical, and creative way about the increasingly globalized world in which we all live.

We, the dissenting minority, believe that this point of agreement clearly indicates the need for a Western civilization requirement. One cannot begin to understand the processes of globalization without understanding something of the history, logic, and interplay of systems such as Christianity, capitalism, modern liberal democracy, and modern Western science and technology; for better and worse, these systems and their histories shape fundamentally the world in which we all live. A rigorous study of some of the basic ideas and institutions of Western thought and culture, therefore, remains more relevant and pressing today than ever. A

Western Civilization requirement is the only way to ensure that students within the GE program at least begin such a study.

Points of Clarification and Emphasis

Contrary to beliefs expressed from within the Task Force majority, courses meeting the proposed Western Civilization requirement would in fact be comparative in nature and attuned to questions of cultural diversity, if only because "the West" is itself quite diverse.

The proposed Western Civilization requirement would serve to complement and reinforce the aims of the Ethnic Studies requirement (affirmed unanimously by the Task Force) by elucidating historical and conceptual frameworks that are essential to any effort at understanding the experience of oppressed and excluded racial minorities in the United States as well as other national settings. Indeed, any number of well-conceived courses could possibly meet both the Ethnic Studies requirement and the Western Civilization requirement.

The high-school instruction that students receive concerning Western Civilization usually does not put students in a position to think in critical and sophisticated ways about Western thought and culture. The aim of college education in this area, as in many others, should be to help students rigorously re-evaluate what they have been taught in high school.


Our students inevitably live and work within educational, economic, political, scientific, and technological systems that are shaped decisively by Western thought and culture. If General Education aims, at bottom, to cultivate in students the ability to understand, evaluate, and reshape the worlds in which they live, a Western Civilization requirement within the General Education Program is very clearly one of the most relevant and necessary of all requirements.

document prepared for GE workgroup website by H. Marcuse, 11/13/03
back to top, GE Workgroup homepage, Senate GE Committee response to this report, 2nd GE Taskforce report (May 2002)