Text adapted from wikipedia:Shimer College

Shimer College Discussion Class

A typical discussion class at Shimer College.

The curriculum of Shimer College is a four-year Great Books program adapted from the original model of such programs developed by educational reformer Robert Maynard Hutchins.

Shimer awards bachelor's degrees with concentrations in humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Two-thirds of the courses required for graduation are mandatory core courses. The remainder are electives, three-quarters of which must be in the student's chosen area of concentration. Electives offer in-depth work in a particular field, or basic skills instruction in languages and mathematics, and are often offered as "tutorials" with only one or two students per course.[1] Students may cross-register for courses at IIT and the Vandercook College of Music, also located on the IIT campus; courses available in this fashion include laboratory science, advanced mathematics, and music history and theory.[2]

Core Edit

The core curriculum of Shimer College is a sequence of 16 required courses in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and interdisciplinary studies. The Basic Studies courses, numbered one and two, are generally taken during the first two years, and the Advanced Studies courses, numbered three and four, during the final two years. The Advanced Integrative Studies courses, numbered five and six, are taken in the senior year.[3]

Shimer core curriculum
Humanities Social sciences Natural sciences Integrative studies
One Art and Music Society, Culture, and Personality Laws and Models in Chemistry Analysis, Logic, and Rhetoric
Two Poetry, Drama, and Fiction The Western Political Tradition Evolution, Genetics, and Animal Behavior The Nature and Creation of Mathematics
Basic Studies Comprehensive Examination
Three Philosophy and Theology Modern Theories of State and Society Light, Motion, and Scientific Explanation
Four Critical Evaluation in the Humanities (Enlightenment to the Present) Methodology in the Social Sciences Quantum Physics and Molecular Biology
Area Studies Comprehensive Examination
Five History and Philosophy of Western Civilization: From the Ancient World Through the Middle Ages
Six History and Philosophy of Western Civilization: From the Middles Ages Through the Nineteenth Century
Senior Thesis
File:Shimer College Class 1995.jpg

The humanities core begins with the study of visual art and music and progresses through literature, philosophy and theology. It culminates with the final course, "Critical Evaluation in the Humanities," which seeks to unify the Humanities courses by approaching all of the areas of the Humanities theoretically through critical evaluation of significant works of the 18th century and later. The course includes Martin Buber's I and Thou, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment, Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, and Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling.[5]

The social sciences sequence begins with study of the individual and society in the first course, proceeds to classical political thought in the second, then modern social and political theory in the third, and concludes with the "Theories of Social Inquiry" course, which focuses on statistical and interpretive methods in sociology, linguistic theory, and 20th century social thought, through works like Clifford Geertz's The Interpretation of Cultures, Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish, and Karl Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia.[6]

The natural sciences core studies science as it has developed historically, beginning with the presocratic philosophers of the 6th century BC and the theory of atoms in the first course; evolution, genetics, and animal behavior in the second; optics and the theory of relativity in the third; and concluding with the study of quantum physics and molecular biology. The natural science reading list includes Albert Einstein’s Relativity, Isaac Newton’s Opticks, Richard Feynman’s QED, Antoine Lavoisier’s Elements of Chemistry, and Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.[7]

The first basic integrative studies course teaches the fundamental skills in close reading and argumentation required to work with original source texts. In the second course, logic and mathematics are studied in terms of the development of geometry and axiomatic systems in ancient and modern times.[3] The advanced integrative studies courses, in which students explore connections between the course texts and those they have studied in other courses, are the capstone of the Shimer curriculum. The readings are arranged chronologically in a unified, full-year sequence to demonstrate their historical relationships, beginning with the ancient epic poems The Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer's Iliad and concluding with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's Reason in History.[8]

Writing projects, comprehensive examinations, and thesis Edit

Students are required to complete a Semester Project during the final week of each term (known as Writing Week), on a topic they choose in conjunction with their advisor. The project does not receive a grade, but is reviewed by the student's instructors in a Final Conference and must be accepted before the student can register for the following semester. Students are also required to complete a separate substantial research paper before registering for the Advanced Integrative Studies courses.[9]

Students must pass at least two comprehensive examinations to graduate. Each comprehensive examination involves several days of reading and writing, and may include an oral component as well. After completing the Basic Studies courses, all students must pass the Basic Studies Comprehensive Examination to continue on to higher level courses.[3] After completing the Advanced Studies courses, students must pass at least one Area Studies Comprehensive Examination, usually in their area of concentration. [9]

The academic experience culminates with the Senior Thesis. Completed during the course of the student's fourth year, it usually takes the form of an analytical or expository essay, but may be a piece of original fiction, poetry, a performance, or a work of visual art. Students are encouraged to defend their theses orally and the public is invited to these defenses.[9]


  1. Shimer College Catalog 2009, pp. 17–18.
  2. "Shimer College Spring Registration for IIT/VanderCook Students". IIT Today. Illinois Institute of Technology. 2007–11–19. Retrieved 2010–07–07. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Mullaney, Kathleen. "Shimer College: Reflections on Teaching a Structured Four Year Curriculum". National Great Books Curriculum. Retrieved 2010–07–07. 
  4. Isaacs, Deanna (2007–08–30). "So Long, Shimer". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2010–05–01. 
  5. "Humanities Courses". Shimer College. Retrieved 2010–04–23. 
  6. "Social Science Courses". Shimer College. Retrieved 2010–05–01. 
  7. Moon, Don. "Natural Sciences at Shimer". Shimer College. Retrieved 2010–05–01. 
  8. "Integrative Studies Courses". Shimer College. Retrieved 2010–05–01. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Shimer College Catalog 2009, p. 21.

This page is part of the Shimer College Wiki, an independent documentation project. Shimer College, the Great Books college of Chicago, is not responsible for its content.

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