Dr. Berlin - English
Ones Who Walked Away (pdf)
Is it possible to spot evil and stop it before it is full blown? What does evil look like as it develops? Are there any signs we can watch for? Does a single person have any power to prevent evil or bring about good? To answer these questions, this course will examine three texts in which traumatic events overwhelm life as usual. The first, the historical novel Storming Heaven, deals with formation of company towns, the mainstay of the mining industry in the early 20th c. It culminates with the Battle of Blair Mountain, one of the most important events in labor history that most people have never heard of. The second text, The Sunflower, is a memoir examining whether forgiveness of atrocities perpetrated during the Holocaust is possible. Our third text, a dystopian ecological novel, examines a future in which the world we know has already been wiped out. We discover how and why in a series of flashbacks to a world very similar to our own. The question "What, therefore, should I do?" will be treated by examining a book of brief essays, Hope Beneath Our Feet, that poses the question, "In a time of environmental crisis, how can we live right now?"
All of our reading will be done within the context of the major objectives of the Honor College core curriculum:
- to develop critical and synthetic thinking skills
- to develop the ability to solve problems effectively a team member
- to improve writing
And, since this is a literature course, we will go about figuring out how to interpret literature, even literature that does not appear initially to make much sense.
Mr. Chimonides - Fine Arts
“The artist is a creative intellectual, not an inspired idiot.” - 1956 Brown Report, Harvard University
In 2012, I believe a deep acquaintance with the creative arts to be an essential component of a strong college education. Not only are the arts enriching personally and socially, but in a knowledge economy where professional roles change rapidly (and many college students are preparing for positions that may not even exist yet), the skill set needed is one that prepares students for change and continued learning - and what is that skill set?
It is the cultivation of personal creativity.
Learning to express original ideas in writing, speech, performance and imagery, knowing how to find information and synthesize concepts, developing interpersonally and collaboratively — these are all solid background skills for a wide variety of future roles - both personal and professional and it is precisely these skills, which form the spine of Dramatic Art. In much the same way that sports participation and marching band instill young people with valuable life skills and experiences, (regardless of their future career path), drama inspired education teaches its participants imaginative and performance confidence; invaluable assets in today’s rapidly (and exponentially) changing world.
As a passionate dramatist (and an artist / educator who is infinitely curious about existence and the universe), I innovate ways to apply dramatic / creative pedagogy to the liberal arts education and thus enliven personal and social growth.
Drama, or the “performance of ideas,” is to me not a domain limited to the Theatre, but rather, it presents a worldview, a lens for exploring reality - and its images encompass innumerable genres (Theatre, Dance, Music, Television, New media and of course, that primary ritual medium of the contemporary world – Film). In my Honors Core unit this semester, we will start with the assigned question and explore it through the lens of the dramatic imagination.
Let me be clear, however, this exploration will not be systematic or traditionally “academic,” but rather, it will be creative and intuitive; inspired by the energies and curiosities of the students in each seminar.
It will also be highly interactive and for some of you, this may test your “comfort zone”. In my courses, we think, we discuss, we play Theater games, we expose ourselves to an incredible variety of artists and ideas through readings and video, we create myths and screenplays and songs and skits and fairy tales and Haikus. And yes, we read texts and write about them as well, naturally – but not always in ways that you may be used to. Or may prefer.
In my Fine Arts Honors Core seminars, we labor to stretch our learning beyond conventional college classroom activities and seek to make a transformational connection. In a way, the class itself is a community art project of sorts with the core question as its organizing theme.
In closing, I offer a recent student reflection; and though each person is different, I feel it’s a good illustration of the kind of growth one can expect to experience, provided they are open and committed to the course:
“At first I was extremely uncomfortable with having to express my opinion as we went one-by-one around the class. However, one of my largest take aways came from listening to the opinions of others. The individual reflections not only required me to step out of my comfort zone and express my opinions, but it taught me to truly listen to and respect everyone’s thoughts and opinions. The more time that we spent reflecting, I felt that the reflections became more in depth as a result of the practice. As the class progressed, I found myself to be surprised by my own thoughts. I was unaware that my mind was capable of reflecting on pieces of artwork because I used to simply just write it off as not being my “thing”. Overall, this unit not only informed me of the importance of art, but it helped me to evolve as a person. The openness that the entire process required scared me without a doubt, but it brought me into an entirely new way of thinking.” -- Kelsey Shaulis Jason Chimonides
Dr. Finegan - History
What if I were to say, with conviction, that there is no good, there is no bad, there is no right, there is no wrong, there just ‘is’? What if I really believe that the notions/values of The Good and The Bad are merely illusory labels we place on ideas, actions, concepts, deeds, theories, and experiences?
Am I Crazy? Not crazy? Maybe crazy?
For now, let’s compromise and agree generally that that which is Good and that which is Bad might be critical judgments made by humans in an effort to organize and understand life and the world around us. But just because our minds are capable of making judgments and creating these types of ‘concepts’, need we necessarily do so? Indeed, what if ‘things’ were just as they were, are just as they are, and will be just what they will be without any sort of judgment at all? Is that approach to living in this world in any way possible?
The study of history is, according to some, a purely objective science. Historians look at documentation and relics from the past and reconstruct stories, events, attitudes, and motivations using ‘hard evidence.’ Most histories today involve the practice of historical interpretation and analysis (vis á vis a strictly narrative approach) and, perhaps, theoretical application (although we have borrowed most of our ‘theories’ from Sociologists and Anthropologists). But the idea of labeling something or someone or some idea or some event that happened in the past as The Good or The Bad, The Right or The Wrong, is a practice which historians generally avoid doing, at least explicitly.
The idea that all authors, including historians, bring to their work biases, partialities, and prejudices is, on the other hand, undeniable. So do I, the ‘objective historian’
make judgments, create concepts, offer interpretations, apply theoretical models, etc. which contradict the objective ambitions of my discipline. Of course!!! So has every historian who has ever lived.
So if history isn’t objective at all, then we do (maybe) have something to do with what is generally held by societies and cultures around the world as Good, as Bad, as Right, and as Wrong. Let’s keep these philosophical conundrums in mind as we approach our topic for this unit: Poverty, Struggle and the Cold War in Latin America.
We will begin Unit B with an introduction to post-colonial Latin America. Once sufficiently grounded in the historical context of this place in the 19th and early 20th centuries, we will move on to four case studies, three of which directly pertain to Cold War politics. Initially, we will take on the issue of the abject poverty and crime in modern Brazil; as such, we will discuss the pivotal roles neo-colonialism, inefficient democracy, dictatorship, and greed have played in the development of Latin America’s largest nation. Next, we will examine Cold War-inspired revolutions and revolutionary activity in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Argentina. All of the readings for these four sections will challenge us – on a daily basis – to ponder the question at hand: How do we tell the good from the bad?
Dr. Rubenstein - Philosophy
Among humans' distinctive capacities is the ability to step back from our actions, desires, and plans in order to evaluate them. Is my desire for ice cream good? Did I do the right thing in betraying a friend's trust last week? Is going to law school the best plan for me? In fact there are at least two distinctions we can make: good vs. bad and right vs. wrong. And we can ask how are they related. For instance, can something that is good be morally wrong? Could something bad be morally required to do? Asking these questions forces us to ask about the nature of both good/bad and right/wrong. And those questions lead to important but difficult questions about objectivity and subjectivity. So when I say vanilla ice cream is bad we usually understand this as a claim about my own personal, subjective tastes, not as a claim about the ice cream's objective properties. But what about the statement that country music is bad? Is that a subjective belief or an objective fact? And crucially, what should we say about claims that something is morally right/wrong? Are there such objective facts? If there are, in virtue of what is something really wrong or right? These questions take us to the heart of moral philosophy, which we will explore through contemporary and historical figures, learning their theories and how to apply them to contemporary debates such as animal rights, euthanasia, and world poverty.
(Note: Unit B is the only Philosophy unit in HNRC 101 this year.)