IDST-043 College, Culture, and Conflict
Over the last 50 years or so, higher education has faced increasing criticism for its perceived role in role in fostering a kind of cultural amnesia and for failing to educate students properly. Editorials and exposés about vanishing academic rigor, politicized classrooms, grade inflation, and a disregard for the classics have become reliable mainstays of our major publications and new programs. Yet over the same period, applications to college have increased and admission to schools like Georgetown is more competitive than ever. Employers continue to seek college-educated candidates and a college degree is an assumed prerequisite for most any leadership position in the world. So is the sky falling or not?
This course will explore some of the most common controversies facing American higher education, with particular attention to conflicts in the humanities. We will look briefly at the history of higher education in America, the evolution of college curricula, and the often controversial role that colleges and universities have played in American history. Students will enter the following debates, and others:
• What is the proper place for politics in the classroom? Can politics be present without being unfair or threatening indoctrination?
• What is the university’s responsibility to the “outside world”? What is scholarship for its own sake vs. scholarship with real world aims? Is this a fair distinction?
• Does popular culture have a place in academia, or do we need more focus on the classics?
• Should art and literature be subject to scrutiny and examination in classrooms, or are these better left to leisure time? Does this kind of study damage our experience of art, perhaps by politicizing it or by corrupting it?
• How is academic discourse different from everyday conversation? Are these differences meaningful, or do they have a self-serving way of cordoning off that which is “intellectual” from that which is not?
Throughout the course, students will be challenged to consider their own experiences in college thus far, and to examine their aims and purposes for seeking a degree. The goal of the course is to learn about academic culture and discourse while practicing the same, and to develop a fuller understanding of what the liberal arts are for, and why we are here.
A History of American Higher Education, Thelin, John
Crisis in the Academy, Lucas, Christopher
The Tempest, Shakespeare, William (Graff, Gerald and James Phelan, eds)
This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald, F. Scott
Weekly readings TBA (editorials, book chapters, articles, etc)
The following syllabi may help you learn more about this course (login required):
Fall '13: Howard, H. (Tad) (description, file download)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.
Other academic years
There is information about this course number in other academic years: