First-Year Preceptorial

Course Description Archive 2010-2011

FYP List for Fall and Winter Terms 2010-11

The Other

Thomas (WI)

From birth, we are taught to conform, not to be different. As a result, we distrust or are fearful of those who are different, who represent "the other." This course will examine, through texts by Gide, Balzac, Virginia Woolf, Gogol, and others, some traditional examples of people considered to be different-the artist, the homosexual, women in a male dominated society. Since we are at Union, we are all the same. But obviously we were not all raised according to the same norms. What happens when we have to confront the different in our daily lives? What happens when we realize that we are different or are forced to be "the other"? Using texts by some social theorists such as Freud and Foucault, we will examine life at Union today both in terms of difference and conformity. Ramée's campus presents a norm to which we should conform. Our terms abroad program forces us to be outsiders in another society. How do we exist in this deliberate tension?

The Individual
Rudko (WI)
The course will focus on the individual. The first part, which is more personal in nature, will explore one's progress through life and its stages: the discovery of the self in childhood and through its memories, the family unit, relationships, love, sex, marriage, and finally death. The second will address the confrontation between the individual and the universe as manifested by the Big Bang, faith, reason, randomness, and freedom. These topics will be viewed from several points of reference. Readings include Annie Dillard, An American Childhood, James Baldwin, Go Tell it on the Mountain, Jane Smiley, The Age of Grief, as well as Freud, the Tao Te Ching, and the Koran.

Unnatural Acts
Ogawa (FA)
In this section of the preceptorial, we will explore the complex and elusive zone between nature and artifice. Our routes of access will be texts on a diverse and challenging set of themes: aesthetics and art, sexuality and the human body, and the politics of food. Authors will include J. K. Huysmans, Sigmund Freud, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Tom Stoppard, and Michael Pollan. We will consider what it means to demarcate the boundary between nature and artifice, and look at the ramifications of both obeying and defying it.

Alone in the World: Experiences of Solitude and Alienation
P. Wareh (FA)
In this course we will examine essays, poetry, novels, and autobiography in order to consider the complexity of how authors have experienced and imagined solitude. Our goal will be to explore what writings about solitude from a variety of perspectives might teach us both about the universal human condition and the particular concerns of an author's society. What mental and spiritual resources are available to a person outside of human society? Has the lonely person been abandoned by the fates, or singled out for a special purpose? What power might a solitary person have to change the world? As we read texts from a variety of perspectives and cultural moments, we will collaborate both to make sense of their complicated details and to express our understanding of that complexity in our own writing. Readings may include Shakespeare's Hamlet, Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Douglass' Narrative, Thoreau's Walden, McCarthy's The Road, the poetry of Dickinson and Whitman, and essays by Emerson and Stanton.

Bracken (WI)

This course will examine the impact of the Internet, cyberspace and virtual reality on the way the world is inhabited, perceived and represented. Paying attention to issues such as subjectivity and embodiment, we will be considering the transformative effect cyberspace has on conventional readings of the self, as well as traditional understandings of space and time. Questions will be asked concerning operations of power and the ways in which cyberspaces and their cultural representations can operate to both subvert as well as uphold normative structures, looking specifically as issues relating to gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and class. We will be looking at a variety of texts throughout this course, online and offline, fiction, non-fiction and film. Readings may include authors such as William Gibson, Donna Haraway, Sherry Turkle and Slavoj Zizek and films such as The Net, Hackers and The Matrix Trilogy.

The Marketplace of Ideas: What "The People" Know...or Think They Know
Brennan (FA)

Information drives today's society. The vast networks (traditional and electronic) which provide news, intelligence, perspective, and gossip enlighten our lives, and we believe that what we know routinely provides a critical foundation for how we live. While inclined to view this as a modern phenomenon, information's use (and misuse) has a long and rich lineage. This course will use a variety of texts to study several critical past events and to examine what people knew, how they knew it, and evaluate the reliability of the information on which they depended. I.F. Stone's The Trial of Socrates, offers a rather unsympathetic examination of Socrates as an elitist enemy of the common man's capacity for self-government and right to free expression. Edmund Burke's widely read and prophetic pamphlet Reflections on the Revolution in France stands in seeming contradiction to his support for the American Revolution, but reflects his concern about the power of popular opinion to produce mass dislocation. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe created a national sensation that informed millions of Americans about the conditions of slavery (or "life among the lowly") and will introduce students to the potential power of literature to both educate and persuade. Moving into the 20th century, Edward Bernays' classic study, Propaganda discusses the means to shape and manipulate public opinion (or the "engineering of consent"), which will be dramatically represented in Propaganda and the Germany Cinema, 1933-1945 by David Welch. Finally, Arthur Miller's cold-war epic The Crucible vividly mingles history, humanity, morality, drama and mid-20th century themes, the relevance of which to 21st century events cannot be dismissed.

The Individual and Ancient Society
Classics Visitor (FA)

Through a survey of important works of Greek and Roman literature, this course will focus on the theme of the individual and how he or she related to the structure of ancient society. The reading will introduce students to three genres of ancient literature: epic poetry, drama (comedy and tragedy), and biography. Students will examine how such important ancient institutions as the family, the military, and religious ritual combined to define the conceptual outlook of the individual and prescribed behavior within the social structure of Graeco-Roman antiquity.

Creativity and Culture

Chris Duncan (WI)

Contemporary artists in literature, music or the visual arts often cultivate attitudes of detachment from and critique of society. A lingering cliché imagines the artist laboring in obscurity in a garret, but a few achieve the kind of celebrity more typically associated with rock stars. This course will look at ways in which artists' roles reflect their times, and ways in which those roles are defined by different societies and the artists themselves. We'll read first hand source material, biographies, fiction, and critical works by or about major 20th C. figures including Italian futurist poet Marinetti, Russian sci-fi novelist Zamyatin and jazz musician Miles Davis. We'll examine the life of a Renaissance sculptor through the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. We'll try to get inside the creative process, looking at the artist's life as they lived it; and we'll examine the making of art from the outside, as critics and cultural observers see it. Some of the issues that might come up as we read: the nature and definition of art, its relationships and responsibilities to society: art and morality; art and politics; art and sexuality; art and money; art and sanity. Through this subject matter this First-Year Preceptorial aims to improve students' ability in those skills crucial to their success in college: writing, critical reading, and presenting ideas orally.

On Suffering

Tuon (WI)

In this class, we will explore the following questions: Why do we suffer? What are the causes of our suffering? Is suffering man-made or divine intervention? Is suffering necessary for our well-being? If suffering is inevitable, how do we cope with it in our contemporary world?

As a class, we will examine these questions about suffering by reading philosophical and literary texts on the problem and meaning of suffering, religion and spirituality, the relationship between good and evil, morality and ethics, and war and atrocity. Texts may include Thomas Merton's The Way of Chuang Tzu, The Book of Job, What the Buddha Taught, Art Spiegelman's Maus, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, Loung Ung's First They Killed my Father, and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis.

Radical Thinkers
Kuhn (FA)
This course surveys the work of some eloquent advocates of ideas that in one way or another attack the foundations of traditional Western culture. Our readings will include writers such as Rousseau, who argues that civilization has led not to progress but to the moral debasement of the human species; Friedrich Nietzsche, who assaults (among other things) Judeo-Christian theology and ethics, rejects every form of metaphysics, and substitutes "perspectivism" for eternal truth; Sigmund Freud, who argues that the price of order and civilization is the purposeful mutilation of our instinctual desire; and Karl Marx, who attacks capitalism and calls upon the poor to revolt and establish a communist society. We will also look at feminist writers, such as Simone de Beauvoir and Susan Faludi, who consider the myriad ways men oppress women and offer thorough-going alternatives; queer theorists such as Judith Butler and Adrienne Rich, who explore heterosexuality as a social construction. Other writers may include Peter Singer, who champions animal liberation, vegetarianism, and voluntary euthanasia, while charging that all excess wealth is criminal; Reg Morrison, who traces all our environmental crises to destructive (and probably irreversible) overreaching by a demented "plague species" (humans); Christopher Clausen, who insists that we are living in a "post-cultural" age and mocks the current American obsession with cultural diversity; and, Sherwin Nuland, who debunks the myth of "death with dignity" with a chillingly detailed account of what actually goes on in American hospitals and ICUs. Students will be asked, not to agree with the often jolting and unexpected stands of these "extremists," but to explain and defend their own views in the light of our authors' radical insights.

Varieties of Scientific Experience

Richmond (FA)

What does it mean to do science? to know something scientifically? Science is commonly represented as a single, monolithic entity, unified across times and places by a uniform method and/or way of thinking. But what if the nature of scientific experience - both the experience of doing science and of knowing the world scientifically - was found to vary depending on when the experience occurred, where it occurred, and who was having the experience? In this course, we will explore the nature of scientific experience in various historical, geographical, cultural, political and personal contexts, paying special attention to how circumstances have determined whether or not particular practices or pieces of knowledge are considered "scientific." Readings may include works by Descartes, Galileo, Linnaeus, Darwin and other well-known (plus a few lesser-known) figures from the history of science, as well as critical writings by historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science.

Heresy and the Defense of Orthodoxy in Western Christianity

Ellis (FA)
In the 1790s, the United States was a nascent nation riven by religious tension. Nevertheless, in 1795, local leaders from various Christian denominations put aside their doctrinal disputes to petition jointly for the chartering of Union College. Union's very name speaks to their eagerness to establish a college free from the control of any one church. At the time, however, many western Christians saw the toleration of spiritual differences as not just undesirable but downright pernicious. Thus, Union offers an ideal environment in which to consider the nature of religious truth and its discontents.

Heresy and the Defense of Orthodoxy in Western Christianity will investigate how and why religious authorities from across the Christian spectrum from ancient times to the present have attempted to define and enforce what they consider the one right way of knowing God and to re-educate and discipline those who depart from it. We will examine the topic through sources as diverse in time, genre, and outlook as Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum," Monty Python's "The Spanish Inquisition" sketches, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and Alister McGrath's Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth. Ultimately, we are interested in such overarching questions as: Is there still a place for absolute religious truth in our world? For absolute truth in any context? If so, how do we discover and dictate that truth?

Innocence and Experience: The Storyteller's Art
Marten (FA)

This course will explore the ways we come to understand the meaning of "innocence" and "experience" as they are revealed in the "storytelling" of selected fiction writers, personal essayists, poets and visual artists, singers, film makers. We will consider such subjects as how storytelling "truth" relates to "happening truth"; why stories are told; the relationship of story to ritual; the nature of ceremonies; stories as ways of expressing personal, family, and public histories; the ways visual art and illustration can change written art; the ways musical art can change written art; the role of tragedy in storytelling; the role of humor in storytelling; the role of lies in storytelling; the ways stories define and are defined by one's culture. Throughout, the themes that link the tales we'll explore will be the nature of innocence and experience, and the relationship of one to the other.

Readings will be selected from works by William Blake (Songs of Innocence and Experience), Peter Godwin (When A Crocodile Eats the Sun), Toni Morrison (Sula), Barbara Myerhoff (Number Our Days), Tim O'Brien (The Things They Carried), Leslie Silko (Ceremony), Josh Swiller (The Unheard), Tobias Wolff (This Boy's Life), selected poems by Seamus Heaney, Paula Meehan, Sylvia Plath, Denise Levertov, Theodore Roethke, William Carlos Williams, songs by Greg Brown, Bob Dylan. Films will include The Graduate.

Monstrous Kinships: Attachment and Loss in Literature

Murphy (WI)

Since its inception, the field of psychoanalysis has relied on the art of story-telling to describe the disturbing and traumatic experiences of humankind. In many ways, psychoanalytic research provides insight into the universal and singular way that fiction writers tell their stories. Fiction has the ability to pierce the deepest recesses of human experience, enabling readers to discover their own truths. Twentieth century British psychoanalyst John Bowlby developed a psychoanalytic approach known as Attachment Theory to help conceptualize the proclivity human beings have to create deep-rooted affectional bonds with others. One of the most important bonds most human beings develop is with parents or primary caregivers, since they are among the very first individuals with whom children come into contact when they enter the world. While a general understanding exists in modern society that parents should protect their children, the realities of everyday modern experience tell a different story. In this course we will use Attachment Theory as a psychoanalytic paradigm from which to examine several works of fiction, poetry, and drama. In each of the literary works we will read, no one of the parental figures offers a truly stable and secure environment for his or her child. Alongside our reading of various classic and contemporary essays in psychoanalysis, several literary works will be chosen from the following list: Euripides' Medea, Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, Herman Melville's Pierre: Or the Ambiguities, Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure, Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Mary Shelley's Mathilda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Innocent Erendira, Lydia Sigourney's "The Father," Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter," selections from William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, and/or several biblical stories.

Words that Change Worldviews
Mar (FA)

A handful of people in the past 150 years have used the power of their minds and the power of language to change the thinking of the rest of us. In this Preceptorial, we will examine a few of the people who have created paradigm shifts in our ways of thinking and consider the ways in which they communicated their ideas so persuasively. We will analyze, for example, some political speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King to see what made them so powerful. We will also look at the writing of Charles Darwin and Rachel Carson, scientists who not only changed their respective fields of biology and ecology but also the assumptions and beliefs of most humans on the planet. Through these and other examples, we will look at several paradigm shifts and how they came about. Together we will come to conclusions about what made these people's words, which introduced ideas that many at the time found difficult to accept, so very powerful in persuading others to change their views. At the same time, we'll be learning principles of persuasive argumentation useful for academic course work and careers in any discipline.

The United States of Amusement

Hauser (FA)

What are we talking about in the U.S., how are we talking about it, and why does it matter? In a country founded during an era of printing, how does our reliance on more recent mass communication technologies like television, the Internet, and texting affect our democracy? Are we even able to engage in deliberative democracy using these means? Do the various media we use to communicate help us or hinder us in our deliberation? Does Web 2.0 technology herald a new age of civic engagement, or is it simply a new and all-encompassing way for us to amuse ourselves? We will read authors as diverse as Plato, Aldous Huxley, Neil Postman, and Thomas Paine, as we consider the ramifications how we choose to communicate with one another.

Water - How It Has Helped and Hindered Civilizations
Jewell (WI)

Water is essential for our survival, therefore it is inevitable that water has played a key role in determining when and where civilizations have developed. How civilizations procure and manage water can have considerable influence over their growth, their consolidation of power, and in some instances their eventual decline. We will explore the importance of water to civilizations such as the ancient Mesopotamians and other peoples of the Fertile Crescent area of the Middle East, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Muslim empire of the middle ages, the British Empire, right up to the modern civilizations in North America and Australia. Readings pertinent to the subject will come from the works of Archimedes, the Bible and Koran, Leonardo DaVinci, Robert Harris, Patrick O'Brien, Mark Twain, and others.

Initiations: Discoveries of the Self, Society and the Sacred

Selley (WI)

How do we come to know who we are and what we believe? How do our families affect our boundaries--what we will and will not do? What does "family" mean? What are the events, both subtle and ritualized, that initiate us into the many societies into which we are born or with which we eventually have significant contact? What does "reality" mean, and how do we construct and determine our own realities based on perceptions of self, society and the sacred (and/or the profane)?

We will explore the development of selfhood and of familial and social relationships in poetry, fiction, drama, sacred texts, and film. Approximately three weeks of the course will be devoted to exploring relationships between the human and the spiritual/divine, as seen in the Bible (specifically, the Old Testament Book of Genesis and perhaps the New Testament Gospel according to Matthew) and other works. The film The Matrix and will be considered in relation to Buddhism and Christianity. The Japanese anime Spirited Away will be discussed in the context of the Shinto religion. Students will write at least five essays, take quizzes, give an oral report, and take a final exam. Possible texts (one or two might be added) include handouts of poetry; Poe; "Ligeia"; Morrison, The Bluest Eye; Sophocles, Oedipus the King (trans. Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics); The Gospel According to Matthew; Alter, ed., Genesis (Norton); Vea, Gods Go Begging.

Jewish + Graphic + Novel

Lewin (WI)

This course will focus on three key issues: differing definitions of Jewishness and the need to express them; the graphic novel as a new medium of communication that relies on the simultaneous interpretation of text and illustration; the question of audience as it relates to both definitions of Jewishness and the question of evolving conceptions of text construction. Do Jewish Graphic Novels really tell us new stories? Why turn to the graphic novel for renewal in an age that favors film and television? Why use this avant-garde medium to express something as conservative as religious belonging? These are some of the questions our course will try to address as we discuss and write about the burgeoning field of Jewish Graphic literature. Some of the authors we may consider include Will Eisner, Joann Sfar, Art Spiegelman, Miriam Katin, Miriam Libnicki, Alison Bechdel, Ben Katchor, Ari Folman, Rutu Modan, Berenice Eisenstein and JT Waldman.

The Author as Sage

T. Wareh (WI)

Authors have authority, and this course looks at authors and readers who have invested books with the ultimate authority: to speak as sage and prophet, to discover truth and beauty, to diagnose the faults of our civilization and of ourselves. This leap of faith has something to do with what happens every time we take a book seriously, although it may be considered a discreditable way to read or write. With critical independence, however, we will explore this theme as a way of thinking about the kinds of serious meaning we derive from books and how to write about them.

Readings may include: David Lipsky's road trip with David Foster Wallace and Jack Kerouac's On the Road; the essays of Emerson, the sermons of Theodore Parker, and the nineteenth-century American religion of "healthy-mindedness"; Marcel Proust's veneration of John Ruskin as an author, and Ruskin on Medieval architecture and the ills of Victorian civilization; Simone Weil's veneration of Homer's Iliad as a tragic lament for the evils she recognized in World War II; the prophetic poets William Blake and Walt Whitman; and Friedrich Nietzsche's bitter indictment of his age (and of his former guru, the composer Richard Wagner). Assignments will include the opportunity to interpret the sage authority of an author or work outside our syllabus.

Poetic Vision & Social Responsibility
Nelson (FA)

W.H. Auden wrote at the dawn of World War II that "poetry makes nothing happen," while Percy Bysshe Shelley asserted that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." This course sets out to explore the connections between poetic vision and social responsibility in order to investigate the role, if any, that poetry has in the modern world. Contemporary society is often characterized as being fractured and fragmented. Our own isolation and estrangement from nature, from society and from each other often can leave us feeling powerless to affect change. We distance ourselves further from life by objectifying and thus reducing everything, even people, to numbers and things: victims of war are presented as statistics, and we are numbed to individual realities of unspeakable suffering and grief. Yet it is believed that when the spirit of poetry lives within us, objects no longer appear merely as things. Through the eyes of a poet, one can rediscover a sense of our humanity and awaken to a shared responsibility in the goings-on in our world. Readings for this course will include a study of the mythology, stories, and writings by Dante, Plato, Goethe, Neruda, Mtshali, Handke, Wolf, Mandela, Whitman, Borges, Silko, Rilke, Brecht, Frankl, Morrison, Ikeda, Gandhi, Joseph Campbell, and others.

Examining Hard Cases, Searching for Good Principles
Wunderlich (WI)

``Great cases, like hard cases, make bad law. For great cases are called great not by reason of their real importance in shaping the law of the future, but because of some accident of immediate overwhelming interest which appeals to the feelings and distorts the judgment.''
--Oliver Wendell Holmes

Moral philosophers often offer cases to support, or attack, principles. Judith Jarvis Thomson asks us to imagine what it would be like to wake up connected to a famous violinist, such that the violinist is using your kidneys to clean her blood. Do you have an obligation to stay connected, if cutting the connection would result in the violinist's death? Derek Parfit supposes that two would-be murderers make independent efforts to kill a hiker; one poisons the hiker's water and the other makes a small hole in the hiker's canteen. The hiker discovers that the canteen is empty in the middle of the desert, and dies of thirst. Who is responsible for the hiker's death?

These sorts of cases are compelling because they put pressure on us. The questions asked are difficult, at least for many readers. The cases call out for resolution, and sometimes a resolution requires that we give up a cherished principle or presupposition. Some difficult examples involve competing interests and uncomfortable sacrifices. How much is a human life worth? How ought we to weigh the interests of the old and the young, or future generations and people who are alive now? Do we have moral obligations to the animals we might consider eating?

We will make an effort to examine difficult examples while avoiding the distortion of judgment that worried Holmes. We will read material from moral philosophy, from literature, and from Ethics Bowl cases.

Meanings of Life

Wells (FA)

Taking for granted that we all live in a real world governed by universal natural laws, we can nonetheless agree that human beings have often differed over how to understand what our senses tell us about that world. Explanations for the way the world works and the meaning of life have differed over time and by place, depending on cultural values and technological abilities to extend our senses.

This section of First Year Precept will explore a variety of perspectives that have been found useful in giving meaning to life, looking first at faith as a source of understanding. We will then examine "truths" to be gained from art and fiction via written, visual, and aural sources. The course will conclude with the insights of reason and science that have transformed the ways we think about life since c. 1600.

Readings will include the Bible, the Tao Te Ching, Freud on religion, Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter House Five, Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Joseph Amato, Dust: a History of the Small & the Invisible, James Watson, The Double Helix, and Albert Camus, The Plague. We will also make use of visual and aural sources.

Constructing the Self

Pease (FA, WI)

Who are you, really? What makes you you? What do you and all other humans have in common? How do we humans learn and form judgments? What makes us peaceful or violent, conservative or liberal, competitive or collaborative, truthful or deceitful? What is the nature of friendship, love, and loyalty? This section of the Preceptorial will address these and many other questions by bringing together biology, cognitive science, ethics, history, psychology, philosophy, gender studies, religion studies, literature, linguistics, art, plus the latest findings of primatology and genetics to explore the complexities of the Self. Students will watch movies and talks, as well as read about consciousness, free will, power, and sexuality. The reading list will include philosopher Susan Blackmore's provocative Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction, geneticist Spencer Wells' Deep Ancestry, a book of philosophical essays, a set of Science Fiction short stories, and Cordelia Fine's A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives.

Identity and Migration in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century
Calandra (FA, WI)

In this course we will explore how the "shock" of migration, in the words of author Meera Alexandra, both creates a painful "shatter[ing]" of the past and offers the "exciting" possibility of "invention" to those who migrate. We will focus on the movement of bodies and cultures across national and regional boundaries in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to examine how migration reshapes the identities both of the migrants themselves and of all those whom they encounter. More specifically, we will ask how this reshaping of identity is reflected, questioned, or facilitated in fiction, film, and critical essays. Possible texts for this course include Mario Puzo's The Fortunate Pilgrim, Edwidge Danticat's Brother, I'm Dying, Jacob Lawrence's narrative paintings about the Great Migration, and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis.

Markets and Morality
Foster (FA. WI)

Twenty nine coal miners died in West Virginia in April of 2010--the worst loss of life in a mining accident in the United States in decades. Global warming and pollution, byproducts of economic growth, threaten ecosystems around the world. Millions of American workers have lost their jobs since 2008, and hundreds of thousands of U.S. home mortgages are in foreclosure. Our economy is still struggling to recover from the worst financial crisis and economic recession since the Great Depression. Environmental devastation and economic malaise have eroded faith in the market system and caused many to question the morality of markets. Does the self-interested pursuit of profits really benefit society as a whole? Do we need more government regulation to ensure that markets serve the social interest? How can we determine whether institutions like markets are moral? Does participation in markets make us more moral or more immoral? What do we mean by morality?

In this precept class, we will explore these questions from different perspectives. We'll examine the views of economists, philosophers, political scientists, religious leaders and theologians. We'll look at how markets have been portrayed in literature and film. Readings may include selections from Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Cotton Mather, Pope John XXIII and Annie Leonard.

Living through Troubling Times
Sargent (FA and WI)

We'll take a close look at how people deal with the big and little disasters of life by examining works of literature from as far back as ancient China (Tao Te Ching) to the futuristic novel Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Winnie the Pooh turns out to be a model Taoist who lets his life be guided by the Tao Te Ching, while Atwood gives us a glimpse of the future we may be creating for ourselves as we try to figure out how much we want technology and marketing to control our lives. Rabbi Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People asks us to consider why people believe in divine intervention in human affairs, and Boccaccio's Decameron gives us entertaining insight into how people dealt with the Black Death in Florence in the fourteenth century. The short stories of Raymond Carver show how easy it is to be overwhelmed in the modern world and the dangers of isolation, while the contemporary David Sedaris offers humorous takes on serious problems like death and political correctness.

Media Accuracy, Credibility, Fairness, and Reliability

Mafi (FA, WI)

According to a published report by The American Society of Newspaper Editors, "78 percent of U.S. adults believe there's bias in the news media." In order to carry our social responsibilities, we ought to be able to think critically and evaluate the information we get through the media: Radio, TV, Internet, Movies, Books, Newspapers, and Magazines.

In this course, the students will:

- have an increased awareness of inaccuracies in the media and will be provided with tools to search for different opinions and perspectives.
- be inspired to critically reflect on increasingly complex social, political, and cultural issues.
- learn how to read between the lines and form their own independent opinion despite the proliferation of media outlets and PR tricks.
- be better prepared to identify WMD (Weapons of Mass Distraction).
- have ample opportunity to use and enhance their critical thinking ability.

As citizens and future leaders, our students will be better equipped to protect great values such as democracy, civil liberties, peace and justice if they are well informed.