General education is central to Northland Pioneer College’s purposes, its definition and its academic commitments. Through a general education program, the college commits students and professors to the pursuit of comprehensiveness in learning – to seeing the relationship of special interests to the larger academic and cultural contexts that we share. It offers vantage points from which to sharpen our awareness of the development of our own culture and its relationship to others. The search for an integrated understanding requires a general desire to learn, an energetic interest in the world and a willingness to put us in the place of those whose beliefs and outlooks are different from our own. A general education program, pursued by curious and empathic professors and students, provides a structure in which the accumulation of knowledge and the practice of disciplined, independent thinking can grow into comprehensive understanding, appreciation and reasoned value.
An effective general education program requires the exercise of thoughtful and precise writing, critical reading, quantitative thinking and processes of analysis and synthesis that underlie valid reasoning. Therefore, students must have a solid foundation in writing, reading, mathematics and critical thinking.
Studies in the traditional academic disciplines are built upon foundation skills in thought and communication, and lead students to grasp the conceptual frameworks that govern different fields of study. Such courses demonstrate that the study of specialized subject matter in any of the traditional knowledge areas – arts and humanities, mathematics, physical and biological sciences, social and behavioral sciences – is critical to the central dialogues of general education.
General education studies focus on the conceptual frameworks through which a thinker, a culture or an academic discipline may approach an issue. We discover both the ordering power and the potential limitations of the fundamental models of understanding that have shaped our thinking throughout the history of civilization. We acknowledge the dependence of thought upon these models, judge them through comparison with alternative models from other thinkers and cultures, and yet are able to continue to participate with active, discerning commitment in the political, ethical and aesthetic life of the community.
The purpose of general education is to give each student pursuing an undergraduate degree the fundamental skills and the familiarity with various branches of knowledge that are associated with college and university education and the cultivation necessary for a lifetime of learning, problem solving and responsible, humane action.