W,S,L,Q Spells 'Bates Education'

After three years of intense deliberation, the faculty on March 6 approved the first substantial changes to the College’s educational requirements since 1977 (see President Hansen’s column).

The new core requirements are called the Bates Education. But in a curious reflection of today’s text-message shorthand, the program may end up being known better from its W, S, L, and Q course designations. 

The new requirements fall into three categories. First, all students will be obliged to complete two General Education Concentrations in addition to their major requirements. Here defined as a group of four courses sharing a clear organizing principle, concentrations may be thematic and interdisciplinary, or located outside the student’s major within a single department or program. 

The idea is to expose students to a variety of fields outside their major and to encourage “integrative learning,” the Bates Education Committee wrote in its summary of the new program. “The perspectives and skills students learn in other disciplines and fields enhance the knowledge they acquire in their majors.”

Responding to a call for proposed concentration themes, the faculty offered more than 40 suggestions including “Architectural Studies: Urbanism and Constructed Spaces,” “Diasporas,” “Evidence: Documentation and Reality,” “Indigenous Responses to Globalization,” and “Sports, Competition, and Culture.”

The second requirement is for three courses with the new W designation — that is, “writing-attentive,” meaning courses that lead students to “focus on what writing well has to do with thinking well,” the committee wrote.

S, L, and Q come in with the third requirement. To bolster understanding of the scientific process and quantitative argument, students will have to take one course designated S, one L, and one Q — standing, respectively, for courses meeting standards for Scientific reasoning, Lab experience, and Quantitative literacy.

The changes will be introduced with the class entering in September 2007, and by autumn 2010 will be in effect for all students.