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field of study—are integral to one another. An approach is learned by practice in relation to a field of knowledge: one's ability to use a foreign language is developed through learning about the culture in which the language is rooted; understanding a work of art is acquired by learning how to write about it—that is, by learning how to use words to describe, compare, question and argue about works of art and the contexts in which they are created and appreciated; one learns how to analyze quantitative data by thinking about what data mean for our knowledge of phenomena in the real world. Some courses, however, give priority to developing skills and approaches, while others give priority to a field under investigation.
Five requirements are intended to teach foundational approaches, which are key intellectual capabilities demanded in a variety of disciplines. Another set of five requirements is intended to ensure breadth of education across the sectors or fields of knowledge. Two additional requirements provide occasions for interdisciplinary explorations, in which approach and sector are blended in even proportions.
The five foundational approaches are:
Writing
Foreign Language
Quantitative Data Analysis*
Formal Reasoning*
Cross-Cultural Analysis*
The five sectors are:
Society
History and Tradition
Arts and Letters  
Living World
Physical World
Two areas for interdisciplinary exploration are:
Humanities and Social Science, which include courses that span two or more of the first three sectors; and
Natural Science and Mathematics, which include courses that span the last two sectors.
Students fulfill these 12 requirements by taking one course in each case, with the exception of the Foreign Language Requirement. Unlike the other requirements, the Foreign Language Requirement may be satisfied by examination. Otherwise, students fulfill this requirement by taking up to four courses in a language depending upon their proficiency. In either case, students must demonstrate a level of competence associated with an intermediate level college course. The requirements marked with an asterisk (*)
may be satisfied with a course that also satisfies one of
the other General Education Requirements or a Major Requirement. Therefore, the total number of courses required by this General Education Requirement is
between 8 and 15, depending on the amount of overlap and the number of courses a student needs to fulfill the Foreign Language Requirement.
A fuller explanation of the individual components of the curriculum follows.
Foundational Approaches
Writing
Benjamin Franklin made writing the center of his vision of a liberal arts education. He imagined communities of students writing and practicing not only for tutors but also for one another, reading the writings of others and making works of their own. At Penn, two and a half centuries later, writing plays an even more central role within the curriculum. As the medium with which scholars create knowledge and communicate their findings to others, it literally constitutes their ideas. A considerable portion of a student’s intellectual work at Penn, therefore, will be written work, and this writing will often be the primary medium through which the quality of a student’s thinking and ideas will be judged. For these reasons, students are required to take at least one course in writing, preferably in their first year of study. Good writing instruction will equip students to write across a range of academic disciplines.
Foreign Language
The faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences considers competence in a foreign language essential for an educated person. Participation in the global community is predicated on the ability to understand and appreciate cultural difference and nothing brings this more sharply into focus than the experience of learning a foreign language. The study of a foreign language not only affords unique access to a different culture and its ways of life and thought, it also increases awareness of one’s own language and culture. For these reasons, every College student is required to attain competence in a foreign language.
Penn is immensely proud of its language programs, the variety that they offer and the results students achieve in them. The Language Requirement should be considered as a clear expression of the University’s realization that effective modes of communication will be increasingly important in the 21st century.
Quantitative Data Analysis
In contemporary society, citizenship, work and personal decision-making all require sophisticated thinking about quantitative evidence. To ensure that graduates are equipped with appropriate skills, students in the College complete a course that uses mathematical or statistical analysis of quantitative data as an important method for understanding another subject. Students learn to think