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Fall 2020 Course Descriptions

First-Year Preceptorial introduces students to liberal learning by teaching them the skills of intellectual synthesis, academic honesty, and resourcefulness—skills necessary for creative thinking, responsible choice, and problem solving. Each year, entering students can choose from a selection of ever-evolving topics. Students examine issues through reading, writing, critical analysis and—most importantly—class discussion. Preceptorial teaches students how to analyze objectively and to discuss competing explanations and contradictory beliefs, how to question or affirm a viewpoint, when to be persuaded by a new idea, and how to interact in good faith with those whose opinions differ from their own. The course generally meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in individual sections for discussion: Tuesday afternoons are generally set aside for class projects, films, one-on-one writing conferences, and writing workshops.

PREC 104: Social Justice and Social Media
What is social justice and how does one defend it? Why do some people identify as advocates for social justice while others, even those with the same values and strategies, disavow that identity? In this course, we will read theories of and criticism about issues of social justice. We will pay particular attention to how they play out on various social media platforms. For example, we will examine accounts that belong to self-proclaimed social justice advocates as well as accounts that attack them. Ultimately, we will hope to complicate and perhaps even answer the questions above.

PREC 106: Cinematic Visions
In this course we will use films to explore a variety of questions: What does it mean to be human? Who are we, and how do we know? What do we want out of life, and how should we go about getting it? What are our responsibilities to others? What does it mean to live "the good life?" We consider the ways in which film addresses these questions. Does film reflect the answers, or does it create them? In addition to film, we will use works from psychology, philosophy, and film studies to explore these issues.

PREC 107: Creating Monsters
One becomes a monster either by committing some "monstrous" act or by possessing some properties that designate them as essentially "other." This course examines and evaluates the psychological, sociopolitical, and ethical processes through which this occurs and will attempt to answer the question: What does the status of monsters tell us about what it is to be human? To do so, we will look at Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and a number of shorter readings and films.

PREC 124: Human Rights
While most people today profess support for "human rights," difficult questions emerge if we press deeper. What, exactly, are the rights that we all share? Are these rights universal or are they specific to certain cultural traditions? How should human rights violations be prevented? Once such violations have occurred, how should societies pursue justice and promote social reconciliation? We will examine these questions looking at specific human rights cases and drawing on readings from a wide variety of perspectives.

PREC 135: Time
What is time? How do we experience it, reckon it, allocate it, spend it, waste it, invest it? Does time control human activity or are we in control of time? We will explore these questions and many more through reading, writing, discussion, active listening and, yes, time travel, as we engage a topic that has both haunted and inspired humans across times and places. To do so, we will draw on the insights of anthropology, sociology, history, arts, music, creative writing, physics, philosophy, and psychology as we better understand and engage the multidimensional phenomena of time in our lives.

PREC 139: Walking as a Way of Knowing
Walking upright is perhaps the definitive feature that distinguishes humans from other animals, yet we live in an increasingly sedentary world. In this class we will examine the origins of walking and many cultural traditions that have developed around walking including walking as transportation, travel, pilgrimage, romantic encounter with the landscape, wild adventure and urban excursion. Students will engage with the practice of walking and will keep a journal about their walks. Students will write papers which explore the literature of wlking, class discussions, and their own walks. Remember, "Not all who wander are lost."

PREC 141: Archaeology's Dirty Secrets
Often misunderstood, archaeology has nonetheless played an important role in popular culture and advancing scholarly understanding of human nature. Archaeologists have championed causes just and unjust, and archaeology has been used to tell the stories of the oppressed as well as to erase the histories of whole peoples. From Nazi theories of race to the theft of Native skeletons to African burial grounds, this course takes on the challenges posed by the history of archaeology and invites you to ask questions such as, “Who owns the past? Who gets to tell the story? What does it mean to be human? How can archaeology or scholarship generally create a more just world?”

PREC 148: Magic(al) Realism
Where do the magical and the real meet? In the 1920s, according to art critic Franz Roh, magic realist art swung between “devotion to the world of dreams and adherence to the world of reality.” Soon, though, Latin American writers began to write magical realist stories in which the magical/supernatural was not a fantastical intrusion into “reality” but its cohort. This course explores the varieties and hybrids of magic(al) realism in the arts, including painting, literature, music, and film. We’ll consider the critical debates and create our own magic(al) realist works in an effort to understand this still-pervasive movement.

PREC 152: Art Is
: document, record, witness, private, public, tradition, defiance, reckoning, celebration, mourning, aware, historical, political, social, active; memorial, intimate, trace, repair, a map, a rend, a fissure, a corrective, a call, a response, a counter narrative; questioning, demanding, protest, restorative, inclusive, innovative, imitative, and curious and —. When the poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote “Art is not a world, but a knowing of the world. Art prepares us,” she wasn’t kidding. In this class we will attend to art objects and engage in careful exploration of the confluences of art and our lives. We will begin to articulate how art prepares us, and for what, by considering expression that represents, distills, enacts, and speaks (to us, for us, with us), art that asks us to listen and teaches us how.

PREC 153: Gen-Z: Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is at the heart of a liberal arts education.  But what is critical thinking?  And how is critical thinking useful in confronting the unique challenges of Generation Z?  Join us, as we define and use critical thinking to examine issues like global economic collapse, the crisis of racial and economic democracy, and threats to worldwide health and environment.  What are the prospects of Gen Z in creating a more democratic politics, socially just economic systems, and fostering cooperation on a global scale?  Let’s find out together.

PREC 154: The Creative Process
What is creativity? Are there particular creative 'types'? How do we measure creativity? Do definitions of what creativity is vary as a function of discipline? Can we learn to be more creative? Can we learn to think 'outside the box.' In this class, we will explore what creativity means, how it works, and why creative thinking is increasingly valued in the 21st-century work environment.

PREC 155: BIPOC @ PWIs: Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education
Race and education exist in a paradoxical relationship in the U.S. Educational institutions have been important sites of resistance to racial inequality. But, given differences in access and funding by race/ethnicity, they have also further entrenched inequality. In this course, we evaluate theories of race and institutional racism and consider the historical and contemporary role of colleges and universities in both advancing and fighting white supremacy. Taking as a case study the experiences of students of color at predominantly white institutions of higher learning, we ask: what role does race play in today’s educational environment?

PREC 156: What is a Citizen?
What is a citizen, and how is one “made”? The term is used frequently in the media and in political discourse, but what does it mean? Using film, current events, curriculum materials, and readings, students in this course will dig into the meanings attributed to citizenship in the U.S. context, the role of schools in developing citizens, and the strategies applied by advocates of competing philosophies of citizenship. Under what conditions, if any, can a “good” citizen avoid paying taxes? Burn the U.S. flag? Protest racial inequity?

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