Jul 15, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2016-2017 
USC Catalogue 2016-2017 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

General Education

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All students who begin college in fall 2015 or later at USC (or who begin elsewhere in fall 2015 and then transfer to USC) must satisfy the 2015 General Education Program, which includes six Core Literacy and two Global Perspectives requirements. Together these provide training in the liberal arts — the critical skills necessary for a free person to function effectively, thoughtfully and productively in a complex world. This General Education program has been designed to nurture habits of thought essential for professional success and personal development, and to establish a background for lifelong learning. No transfer work may be used to satisfy any Core Literacy requirements if those courses are taken after a student has enrolled at USC, but transfer work may be used to satisfy Global Perspectives requirements.

General Education Course Requirements

The General Education Program includes two kinds of course requirements — Core Literacies and Global Perspectives. Students can satisfy one Core Literacy with an appropriate General Education Seminar.

Core Literacies

There are six categories of Core Literacies, in which eight courses are required. All students must complete one course in each of the Arts, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Quantitative Reasoning, and two courses in each of Humanistic Inquiry and Social Analysis.

GE-A. The Arts

The goal of general education classes in the Arts is to help students understand the rich history of the creative arts and to enable students to situate themselves within its traditions. Courses in the Arts category raise important questions about creative activity in the visual arts, literature, music, film, theatre or dance. Each course addresses at least four of the five learning objectives for this category, teaching students to engage with, to analyze, and to make creative work; to connect works of art to concurrent political, religious and social conditions; and to appreciate the theoretical and aesthetic contexts in which works of art are created. Courses may be taught from a disciplinary perspective but must be addressed to a non-specialist audience. Course materials and expectations do not presuppose familiarity with the discipline through which the course is offered.

GE-B.  Humanistic Inquiry

Courses in humanistic inquiry encourage close engagement with works of the imagination—in words, sights and sounds—understanding what it might mean to live another life. In these courses students explore language as a medium of artistic expression and communication, studying systems of language and thought to understand different cultures (their concepts, values and histories) in relation to one another. Courses in the Humanistic Inquiry category study forms of representation and methods of interpretation, learning broad perspectives that are chronological, disciplinary, and cross-disciplinary. Students immerse themselves in arts and letters to think about their own place in history and contemporary society and to inquire into our shared future. Students learn to read and interpret analytically, to think critically and creatively, and to write and speak persuasively, developing habits of mind that enable them to evaluate ideas from multiple perspectives and to articulate informed opinions on issues of importance in today’s complex world.

GE-C.  Social Analysis

The social sciences seek to explain the causes and consequences of a range of complex phenomena, including how human action shapes and is shaped by economic organizations, political institutions, and social and cultural settings. These phenomena include the role of gender, sexuality, race, class and other aspects of identity across time in the United States and around the world. Courses in this area introduce students to the methods and analytical approaches of the social sciences and demonstrate how these tools help us understand our world. In the Social Analysis category students learn to apply the methods of at least one social science discipline to the study of human behavior in economic, political, cultural and/or social settings; to understand the nature of empirical evidence and assess the usefulness of qualitative and quantitative evidence in explaining specific social phenomena; and to demonstrate an understanding of the interplay between individual and collective human action, organizations, and institutions in social and cultural settings.

GE-D.  Life Sciences

Courses in the Life Sciences explore aspects of biological, evolutionary and/or environmental science with both descriptive and quantitative elements, placed in the context of research and specifically the contributions of USC scientists to our understanding of living systems. These courses train students to understand the basic concepts and theories of science and the scientific method, with a major emphasis on the impact science has on society and the environment. Students learn about the process and methods underlying scientific inquiry and how to obtain accurate experimental results; they are trained in the formulation of empirically testable hypotheses and develop an understanding of the distinction between unsupported assertions and conclusions based on sound scientific reasoning. Students acquire substantive knowledge in science and technology; they understand the processes by which scientists investigate and answer scientific questions and can articulate the basic principles used to explain natural phenomena.

GE-E.  Physical Sciences

The physical sciences deal with analysis of natural phenomena through quantitative description and synthesis. Students learn to solve scientific problems and to understand the processes by which scientific knowledge is obtained, evaluated and placed in the context of societal relevance. In the Physical Sciences category students learn to appreciate the difference between scientific laws, theories, hypotheses and speculation; to think critically about historical and contemporary issues in science and technology; to draw conclusions from empirical scientific data and to communicate experimental results and observations to others. All courses in the Physical Sciences require a section of laboratory or field experience in which students collect, analyze, and present their data. Students acquire substantive knowledge in science and technology; they understand the processes by which scientists investigate and answer scientific questions and can articulate the basic principles used to explain natural phenomena.

GE-F.  Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning category engages students in the analysis and manipulation of data and information related to quantifiable objects, symbolic elements, or logic in order to help them navigate the complexity and sophistication of the modern world. All Quantitative Reasoning courses, be they formal, abstract or empirical, are designed to increase the capacity of students to evaluate chains of formal reasoning and to assess the validity of mathematical, logical or statistical inferences. Each course in this category aims to develop one or more of three sets of skills: formal reasoning (the use of formal logic or mathematics), abstract representation (the use or construction of symbolic or diagrammatic representations), and empirical analysis (the use of statistical inference).

Global Perspectives

The requirements in Global Perspectives prepare students to act as socially responsible members of the global community, respectful of the values and traditions of diverse cultures, aware of the structures of power that affect people differently by race, class, gender and other socially constructed categories, sensitive to the interplay between worldwide problems and specific, local challenges. The Global Perspectives requirement includes two courses, one in each area. The first examines the contemporary situation (GE-G), while the second explores some dimensions of the historical context that has given rise to the current global scene (GE-H). While no course can meet all of these objectives, these requirements help students appreciate the dynamics at work in complex global issues and their varying local forms.

Students can count each Global Perspectives course to meet a Core Literacy requirement as well, if the course has been approved to meet both requirements. No other courses can be double-counted to satisfy more than one General Education requirement. 

GE-G.  Citizenship in a Diverse World

Courses in this category enhance understanding of citizenship and moral agency within the context of today’s increasingly global society, exploring differences and similarities across diverse communities and cultures. Courses can cover a diverse range of issues, such as political, legal, ethical or cultural aspects of U.S. society in a global context, or the ways in which other societies and cultures construct what it means to be a citizen and a moral agent. Courses in this category can draw upon various disciplinary perspectives or methods, such as political, social or economic analyses, moral philosophy and social justice, cultural studies, and critical theory. However, all courses must confront questions of social responsibility and citizenship in the context of differing political, social, legal or economic institutions during the present global era.

GE-H.  Traditions and Historical Foundations

Courses in this area examine the historical and cultural foundations of contemporary and past societies by studying enduring literary, political, economic, philosophical, legal, ethical or religious traditions. Courses can examine multiple aspects of a single culture (for example, the literary and philosophical heritage of classical Greece or imperial China) or can trace the development of a fundamental idea or tradition across multiple cultures (for example, the attitude toward the natural world or the definition of a warrior). Upon the completion of their Traditions and Historical Foundations course, students should be familiar with the history of a significant tradition, practice, institution or idea; understand the historical transmission of such practices and ideas within a significant cultural tradition; be familiar with writers, artists, practitioners, thinkers, groups, and/or leaders and be able to analyze the significant texts that are part of such a history; and understand the continuity between the past examples of a tradition and their later manifestations.

In addition, all entering freshmen are expected to complete a General Education Seminar during their first year at USC. These seminars satisfy one of the Core Literacy requirements above.

For more information about the general education requirements, see here.

Writing Requirement

In their writing classes, students learn to think critically, to build sound arguments and to express their ideas with clarity. The writing requirement comprises two courses; most students meet this requirement with:

Upper-division requirement:


Certain groups of students may meet this requirement with other course work. For more information on the writing requirement, see here.

General Education Course Lists

Core Literacies

GE-A: The Arts

Courses for Specific Students

The following courses are approved to meet this requirement for a specific group of students:

GE-B: Humanistic Inquiry

GE-C: Social Analysis

Courses for Specific Students

The following courses are approved to meet this requirement for a specific group of students:

Global Perspectives

GE-G: Citizenship in a Diverse World

GE-H: Traditions and Historical Foundations

Courses for Specific Students

The following courses are approved to meet this requirement for a specific group of students: