Themes

Initial Themes for the Integrations Curriculum

The three initial themes that will begin to be implemented in Fall 2020 are listed below, and are as follows: Truth, Movement, and Justice. A fourth theme, Environment, is under a two-year development period.1

Students will be required to take three same-themed courses from three different Ways of Thinking. By having three different Ways of Thinking on the same topic, students can see the distinctive value different disciplines bring to bear on an issue. There are two kinds of themed courses: courses that are wholly dedicated to a theme, called Thematic Focus, and courses that are partially dedicated to a theme, called Thematic Encounter.

These themes address issues of significance for our students and our world, allow students to explore these issues from a local and global perspective, allow students to reflect on how Benedictine practices might apply to questions in individual or social lives, and allow for broader reflection on questions of meaning, value, and purpose. While no individual class on a theme is expected to incorporate these value perspectives, the themes themselves create a space where such discussions are possible and students will be able to reflect on these perspectives in their Integrated Portfolio.

Truth

This theme examines what truth is, why it is valuable, how it shapes choices and our perceptions of ourselves and our world. This theme might explore efforts to discover and promote truth, or the ways in which lies, errors, biases, or faulty science subvert, obscure, and misidentify truth.

Courses in this theme might study:
• Examine and analyze the logical structure of arguments and their fallacies or use statistical analysis to identify the truths hidden in large data sets or complex systems
• The roles of artifice and authenticity in artistic expression or ways of illuminating truth or telling lies through representation in the arts.
• Human efforts to discover eternal and universal truths or the risks and consequences of telling the truth.
• Ways of illuminating truth through scientific research or developing scientific literacy. • Ways in which our beliefs can obscure truths about ourselves or our world, how our biases can distort truth, or the processes and consequences of deceiving ourselves and others.

Movement

This theme examines the interactions of ideas, people, energy, information, or matter as they flow from one location, literal or metaphorical, to another. This theme recognizes that movement can occur across conceptual, historical and stylistic boundaries, and that humans, other animals, and even the most basic components of our world move in one form or another, and often, from one form to another.

Courses in this theme could include:
• Modeling natural resource or information transfers, immigration patterns, or effects of ecological invasions or examining how linguistic structure crosses borders.

• How theater, music, or art, transmit ideas across borders or how ideas and approaches come in contact with one another.
• The ways in which literature is used to understand migration, or histories of immigration for different countries and communities.

• Concepts in epidemiology, transfer of natural resources and technology, food and agricultural practices, or the ecological interactions in food chains.
• Past or present political, economic, or cultural causes of immigration or barriers to migration.

Justice

This theme focuses on historical and contemporary social change, whether forms of oppression or advocacy for human dignity and inclusion. Courses might explore concepts of justice, or historical or contemporary calls for fair and equitable conditions, institutions and laws, or the fight for human rights and equality, or various policies and movements that have restricted the same.

Courses in this theme might:
• Model or use data and statistical models to examine the impact of different policies on social change/social justice concerns such as income inequality.
• Explore the use of visual art, literature, and performance that advocate for or against social justice or to document or to critique social change.
• Study histories of enslavement or efforts to overthrow or recover from colonial oppression.
• Study philosophical perspectives on justice.
• Study the use of science or technology, past or present, to maintain inequitable conditions or alleviate human suffering.
• Examine political activism, or income and wealth inequality.2

Environment (under development, implementation status uncertain)

This theme examines the impact of humans on our natural world and the impact of the natural world on humans. Courses in this theme may address a wide variety of approaches to studying the natural environment, but will be united by an emphasis on understanding the impact that humans have on the natural world, or the impact that the natural world has on human culture and society. This theme may also include classes that consider questions of sustainability such as the ability to meet society’s present needs without compromising the needs of the future, or an analysis of the causes of climate change.

Courses in this theme might explore:
• Statistical or computational methods to model the impact that human activity has on the natural world or develop or evaluate models of populations affected by sustainability efforts.
• Artistic representations of human relationships to the natural world, or sustainable production methods.
• Literary efforts to understand humans’ relationships to the natural world, or different historical or philosophical understandings of that relationship.
• The impact of human activity on the natural world, or strategies to preserve natural resources.
How climate change has in turn impacted social, economic, or political systems and policies.