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Harvard approves new general education curriculum

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. --Harvard University on Tuesday approved a new general education curriculum for the first time in three decades that it says will help students "understand themselves as products of -- and participants in -- traditions of art, ideas, and values."

The new curriculum requires students take semester-long courses in each of seven areas including ethical reasoning, critical skills, mathematical reasoning, sciences of living systems, sciences of the physical world and "The United States and the World."

It also requires a semester-long course focused on "culture and belief to develop an understanding of and appreciation for traditions of culture and belief in human societies."

The overhaul comes after years of internal debate over what courses should be required of all Harvard students.

Officials at Harvard, founded 370 years ago to train Puritan ministers, said the goals of the new curriculum focus on preparing students for civic engagement and "to respond critically and constructively to change; and to develop students' understanding of the ethical dimensions of what they say and do."

David Pilbeam, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said the new curriculum is "both challenging to the life of our students' minds and responsive to their interests and needs."

School officials said the new curriculum is also consistent with past general education programs that mandate a set of requirements rather than letting students have free-range across existing departmental offerings.

Harvard University President Derek Bok said the new general education program "offers an impressive framework for acquiring the breadth essential to a strong liberal arts education."

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