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Laura Behling, Dean of the College
First-Year Preceptorial, informally known as "FP", has since 1974 served as Knox College's introduction to the liberal arts. The term "liberal arts" historically has referred to the knowledge and skills that give one the capacity to live freely and responsibly, to take one's place among the community of humankind. Helping students achieve that capacity is the goal of the entire educational program, but it starts with FP.
The goal of a liberal education is to help students develop those capacities of mind and spirit that enable them to act confidently and to make thoughtful, effective choices about things that matter. These capacities include knowing how to question or affirm a viewpoint, when to be persuaded by a new idea, and how to deal in good faith with those who are different from themselves. Building this capacity comes not only through reading and critical analysis, but also through engaged writing and face-to-face dialogue. The goal of Knox's First Year Preceptorial is not to "cover" a particular subject but to initiate a dialogue - with teachers and with fellow students - and to hone habits of inquiry, communication and judgment vital for success at Knox and beyond.
First Year Preceptorial introduces students to liberal learning through a diverse selection of topics taught by professors from nearly all academic programs. These topics allow students to examine classic, existential questions in a broad, engaging, real-world context that transcends disciplinary boundaries. What does it mean to be human? Does death deprive life of all meaning? What is happiness and how can we achieve it? How do we put down roots in today's world?
We will explore these and many other diverse questions through reading, writing and discussion. Classes meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in discussion sections of 17-18 students led by a Knox professor. In addition, Tuesday afternoons or other evening time slots are set aside for Writing workshops, films and other activities. Some sections will have an advanced student as a co-leader; upper-class students are invited to apply to work with FP faculty as co-leaders (PREC 248 or 348). Co-leaders will generally be called upon to help facilitate class discussion and work with the first year students on their writing assignments.
Other sections will utilize a Designated Writing Tutor, and advanced student who works in the Center for Teaching and Learning and who provides peer writing support.