Statement of Principles

The participating members (students, staff and faculty) of the Program in the Comparative History of Ideas are engaged in a collective endeavor to construct a dynamic, creative learning community that will mobilize our collective and individual passions.  We encourage our members to pursue the ideal of self-knowledge collaboratively through informed and self-conscious participation in the changing world in which their selves are shaped and which they will shape for their own and future generations.

CHID is widely recognized across campus for a number of contributions.  We have created an exemplary curriculum for a problem-oriented interdisciplinary program, and nurtured a unique undergraduate culture.  CHID has produced students recognized across the university for their inquiring, experimental, totally engaged participation in the life of the mind, their outstanding intellectual achievements, and their passionate commitment to asserting ownership of both the content and the process of their education.  Additionally, CHID is noted for creating a laboratory for curricular innovation, for the "internationalization" of undergraduate education, for pedagogical creativity in learner-based methods of teaching and research, for extensive cross-unit collaborations, and for its focus on engaged community learning and public service.

As the program has developed and grown, we have been guided by a number of general principles:

From these principles have emerged the educational practices, the institutional innovations and above all, that reflective, questioning, engaged "CHID student" that we believe have immensely enriched the undergraduate life of this university.  Many people think that this kind of intense, engaged community of learning is not possible within the context of a large, urban, commuter-oriented research university.  For CHID, the large university is an opportunity for collaboration and exploration - an enabling condition for, rather than a hindrance to, passion, perspective and community in undergraduate education.

Program Philosophy

By introducing students to the interrelation of ideas and society, Comparative History of Ideas demonstrates the need to consider intellectual problems from many perspectives. The goal of the program is to provide the tools of critical and parallel thinking to each student.
By parallel thinking we mean a habit of seeing from a variety of vantage points. For example, the student might employ a specific methodology to a set problem and then critique his/her work by examining the assumptions of that methodology as the first step in employing a new method which would work in parallel fashion to the first. With respect to problem solving, when a particular method runs into obstacles (due to its inherent assumptions) the student who has been trained to critique his/her own operating methods would be able to step back and critique the problems that led to the obstacle and thereby steer a course around it.
The program hopes to engender an attitude of personal engagement and creativity within students, encouraging them to think for themselves. In addition, the program seeks to inculcate a sense of the importance of a disciplined methodology as a means to investigate various issues, while at the same time revealing the inherent weaknesses and limitations of any system.