Culture is embedded in language. By achieving competency in a language other than English, students learn about deep differences and similarities between cultures through comparing their means of expression. Learning a language other than English opens up opportunities for direct communication with a wide range of communities; it allows engagement with world literatures unmediated by translation; and it enhances the ability to learn additional languages. Ensuring that students gain facility in a language other than English underscores Trinity's commitment to preparing its students to become global citizens. In an age when English has become something of an international lingua franca, it nonetheless amounts to a kind of arrogance that Americans expect everyone else to communicate with them in the primary language of the United States. This is hardly the message we want to send our students as we seek to educate them about and make them seriously responsive to the diverse cultures and societies that make up life on this planet. Moreover, achieving competency in a language other than English requires students to develop skills of reading, writing, and speaking. Through this process, students learn more about how their own language works and about how to use it more effectively.
No one course or major has a special monopoly on moral and ethical reasoning, yet our lives are constantly infused with the necessity of making such judgments. In an academic community there are special occasions for such judgments involving academic integrity and honesty, fairness and respect. Students' educations must acquaint them with multiple and diverse cultural constructions of moral and ethical behavior. What is more, students must be given the opportunity to explore the complexities of ethical questions and debates and to develop their own informed and reasoned responses to them. They must understand that this is an ability that needs to be central to the "examined lives" their educations are preparing them to lead. The Student Integrity Contract, we hope, will be an additional mechanism for encouraging right conduct among students in both the academic and the social aspects of their lives in a residential college setting.
Acquire knowledge of diverse cultural traditions and global perspectives
Familiarity with a large range of diverse, divergent, and yet interconnected cultures, both national and international, is a powerful way to free one’s mind from parochialism and prejudice. Our students, in Martha Nussbaum’s phrase, need to become “citizens of the world,” able to understand, appreciate, and respect views of life, mores, customs, and perspectives other than, but also including their own. The study of different racial, sexual, ethnic, cultural, historical, and linguistic communities provides a partial standpoint for thinking reflectively and reflexively about one’s own community and the ways in which it shapes one’s identity and consciousness. It is a mark of an educated person to be able imaginatively to inhabit the lives of others and thereby gain perspective on his or her own. It is another vehicle for self-knowledge. Further, quite apart from the self-knowledge and self-consciousness that multicultural literacy encourages, a knowledge of other cultural traditions for their own sakes, in and of themselves, should be a paramount goal of a Trinity education if our students are to have anything like an adequate understanding of the complexity of the world in which we live.