From Mexico to India, San Francisco to Tokyo, natural disasters have shaped both the surface of our planet and the development of civilizations. These catastrophes claim thousands of lives and cause tens of billions of dollars in damage each year, and the impact of natural disasters is only increasing as a result of human population growth and urbanization. This course uses the methods and skills associated with earth science to help you to develop an understanding of both the causes and impacts of these events.... Read more about Natural Disasters (Gen Ed 1098)
Most of us were taught that the Civil War between the Confederacy and the Union was fought on battlefields chiefly in the American South between the years of 1861-1865. In this narrative, the North won and the South lost. But what if the issues that resulted in such devastating bloodshed were never resolved? What if the war never ended? This course demonstrates the ways in which the United States is still fighting the Civil War, arguably THE defining event in U.S. history.... Read more about Is the U.S. Civil War Still Being Fought? (Gen Ed 1133)
Advances in brain science have the potential to diminish many forms of human suffering and disability that are rooted in disordered brain function. But what are the ethical implications involved in altering the structure and function of human brains? What’s at stake when we have the ability to alter a person’s narrative identity, create brain-computer interfaces, and manipulate social and moral emotion? In this course, you will ask and attempt to answer these questions, and discuss the implications of mechanistic explanations of decision-making and action for widely-held concepts of moral agency and legal culpability.... Read more about Brains, Identity, and Moral Agency (Gen Ed 1064)
Is truth dead? Time Magazine posed this question in bold red print on its April 3, 2017 cover. It’s a surprising concern, given that information of every sort imaginable is merely a click away on our phones, access to educational resources is robust for both traditional students and online learners, and direct interaction with public figures is more unencumbered than ever before with the help of social networks.... Read more about Ignorance, Lies, Hogwash, and Humbug (Gen Ed 1023)
What is the nature of the object that has been the focus of your education since you began to read--and at the core of Western culture since its inception-- and why is it important to understand and appreciate its presence before your eyes even if it's all but transparent?
What is a democratic republic, and can such a regime — one that trusts citizens to capably choose and monitor those in power, and one that trusts those in power to restrain themselves and each other while attending to the public good — survive and protect us from tyranny?
“A republic, if you can keep it.” So did Benjamin Franklin characterize his hopes for American government. What did Franklin and others mean by republic, and why did he and so many others worry that it might be something hard to hold onto? This course will give you the theoretical basis and historical evolution of republics so that you can understand the American system of a democratic republic, now spread widely around the planet even as it is considered under threat.... Read more about Res Publica: A History of Representative Government (Gen Ed 1032)
Which is more just: capitalism or socialism? And how does that question intersect with racial justice? Capitalism has long reigned as the ideological solution to organizing society, but it is also clear that the pursuit of seemingly boundless material gain for some comes at the expense of others.... Read more about Economic Justice (Gen Ed 1121)
Philosophers and politicians alike struggle to set the terms for living a good life in a world of conflict. Rulers seek guidance from their counselors, and philosophers have often dreamed of wielding real-world influence. Reading a series of masterpieces of philosophical thought and literary expression, we will examine some striking cases of relations between the pursuit of wisdom and the pursuit of power, from the extremes of conflict (the executions of Socrates, Han Fei, Jesus, Sir Thomas More) to the opposite dream of the philosopher king.... Read more about The Philosopher and the Tyrant (Gen Ed 1030)
How much of your impression of the ancient world was put there by Hollywood, music videos, or orientalist musings out of the West? How accurate are these depictions? Does it matter? This course examines the quintessential example of the “exotic, mysterious ancient world” – Ancient Egypt – to interrogate these questions. Who has “used” ancient Egypt as a construct, and to what purpose? Did you know that pyramids, mummies, King Tut, and Cleopatra represent just the (overhyped) tip of a very rich civilization that holds plenty of life lessons for today?... Read more about Pyramid Schemes: What Can Ancient Egyptian Civilization Teach Us? (Gen Ed 1099)
Is the United States a beacon of liberal, democratic, diverse values and practices, that also has a pattern of racial injustice – or is the US at its core a white supremicist society, in which some people aspire to creating a genuinely tolerant liberal democracy?
How do we manage issues of race, ethnicity, and immigration in a polarized political era? What role did race play in the election of President Trump, after eight years of the presidency of Barack Obama? How can we be good citizens of the world when Americans have such mixed views and take such mixed actions in engaging with racial hierarchy, identity, or interaction?... Read more about Race in a Polarized America (Gen Ed 1052)
This course introduces major works, genres, and waves of East Asian cinema from the silent era to the present, including films from Mainland China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. We will discuss issues ranging from formal aesthetics to historical representation, from local film industries to transnational audience reception.... Read more about East Asian Cinema (Gen Ed 1049)
What is intelligence? An inquiry into the nature of intelligence can take different forms – philosophical, biological, mathematical or technological. In this course, we will use machine intelligence (everything from voice recognizing smartphones to game-playing computers) as a handle to think about natural intelligence (brains and behavior of animals). Although we will start with big, general questions, we will quickly move to concrete queries about brains and computers.... Read more about Artificial and Natural Intelligence (Gen Ed 1125)
Enrolling in higher education is an aspiration of ever more people. Within a generation there has been an extraordinary global expansion of higher education, in all but the poorest countries. This remarkable transformation raises questions about the effects of higher education on students and its broader societal impact, access to higher education and its role in addressing social inequalities, and how governments, markets and individuals and institutions shape higher education. This course explores contemporary higher education institutions, their students and controversies through international comparative perspective and diverse multidisciplinary approaches.... Read more about Higher Education: Students, Institutions and Controversies (Gen Ed 1039)
How and why did humans evolve to be the way we are, and what are the implications of our evolved anatomy and physiology for human health in a post-industrial world? Why do we get sick, and how can we use principles of evolution to improve health and wellbeing?... Read more about Human Evolution and Human Health (Gen Ed 1027)
The myths of ancient Greece and Rome embody both our worst nightmares and our most fabulous fantasies. Heroism, happy endings, and everlasting love blend with disturbing themes of parricide, cannibalism, incest, misogyny, and unthinkable violence. The resulting stories have fascinated generations of artists, writers, and thinkers, and this course will serve as an introduction to this distant but strangely familiar world. We will move from the very first works of Greek literature through the classic Greek tragedies and the Roman tales in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.... Read more about Classical Mythology: Myth in Antiquity and Today (Gen Ed 1110)
Human beings are the only creatures in the animal kingdom properly defined as worriers. We are the only ones who expend tremendous amounts of time, energy, and resources trying (sometimes obsessively) to understand our futures before they happen. While the innate ability of individual people to predict has not changed much in the past few millennia, developments in mathematical and conceptual models have inordinately improved predictive systems.... Read more about Prediction: The Past and Present of the Future (Gen Ed 1112)
Facing the edifice of preexisting knowledge, how are breakthrough scientific discoveries made that contradict the existing canon? Twelve great experiments that have transformed our understanding of nature will guide us, first through immersion in the scholarship and popular beliefs of the time. Next, how did the discoverer prepare? What were the motivations, prior experiences, and training that led to the threshold of a fruitful advance?... Read more about Experiments that Changed Our World (Gen Ed 1037)