Thursday, March 19, 2015

Guest Post : Hire Education

A few months ago, there was quite the uproar in the higher education scene about Harvard offering a course on anal sex. Called "What What In the Butt", this was a workshop that was part of a greater "Sex Week" initiative seeking to help college students practice healthy and pleasurable sex.

Most of the comments about this course revolved around the topic. How risque! Many wondered if there were more worthwhile educational programs to which Harvard's resources should be directed.

And this is an interesting point. As part of a greater Sex Week initiative, this course was not worth college credit. Which is a relief! Harvard charges--according to its own website--$58,607 per year in tuition, room and board. What does that come down to? Let's suppose a student is taking 4 courses a semester. That's eight a year. So each course costs about $7,325. The Fall 2015 Harvard academic calendar begins on September 4 with the last day of classes being December 4. Now during this time you also get days off for Columbus Day and Turkey Day…but let's be generous and call it a twelve week semester. Each course then is costing $610 a week, which means--assuming you meet 3 hours a week--each lecture costs a little over $200. 

While between merit and need-based scholarships it's hard to say who, if anyone, actually pays Harvard the $58,607 per annum tuition, room and board it IS interesting to think of things in these terms. Is "What What in the Butt" worth the cost? Now, again, this was not a course for credit. And I don't want to pick on Harvard. As nothing lies or shocks like a statistic, here are some other courses from very well-respected colleges that may not be worth the price tag. 

School: Davidson College
US News and World Report ranking: 11 (National Liberal Arts)

Annual Tuition: $60,119

Course Title: ENG 472: Gossip

Course Description: Drawing on cultural studies and performance studies, this trans-historical and transnational course investigates the role gossip plays in literature, psychoanalysis, journalism, politics, television, film, and new media. The seminar foregrounds the imbrication of gossip and scandal with constructions of gender and sexuality.

School: Georgetown
US News and World Report ranking: 21 (nationally)

Annual Cost (from School's Site): $67,420

Course Title: PHIL 180--Philosophy and Star Trek

Course Description: Star Trek is very philosophical. What better way, then, to learn philosophy, than to watch Star Trek, read philosophy, and hash it all out in class? That's the plan. This course is basically an introduction to certain topics in metaphysics and epistemology philosophy, centered around major philosophical questions that come up again and again in Star Trek. In conjunction with watching Star Trek, we will read excerpts from the writings of great philosophers, extract key concepts and arguments and then analyze those arguments. The questions that we will wrestle with include:
  1. Is time travel possible? Could we go back and kill our grandmothers? What is the nature of time?
  2. Could reality be radically different from what "we" (I?) think? Could we be brains in vats?
  3. What is the relation between a person's mind and his functioning brain--are they separate substances or identical? Can persons survive death? Can computers think? Is Data a person?
  4. What is a person? When do we have one person, and when do we have two (think of the episodes where people "split" or are "fused")?
  5. Do people have free will, or are they determined by the laws of nature to do exactly what they wind up doing, while believing they have free will? Or both? What is free will?

School: Princeton
US News and World Report ranking: 1 (National Universities)

Annual Tuition: $66.595

Course Title: Freshman Seminar: "Getting Dressed"

Course Description: Princeton's own writeup on the course which includes: "The seminar is an inquiry into the social significance of clothing and a close examination of the relationship between clothing and identity in 20th-century America. To explore that juncture, students keep a literary sketchbook in which they record their observations about the ways clothing comes into play in the news, in their surroundings and in their own lives. The journal helps the students hone their powers of observation and learn key skills for examining the world."

School: Skidmore College
US News and World Report ranking: 37 (National Liberal Arts)

Annual Tuition: $59,942

Course Title: SOC 251: The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Race, Class, Gender and Media

Course Description: The class will cover topics such as the rise of the disney princess, gender stratification, the hyper-commodification of childhood, transitioning to adulthood, what happens to Disney stars as they age, and a discussion on bisexuality, queerness, and the female body, according to the course description.

School: University of Pennsylvania
US News and World Report ranking: #8 (National Universities)

Annual Tuition: $66,800

Course Title: RUSS 125: The Adultery Novel In and Out of Russia

Course Description: The object of the course is to analyze a series of 19C and 20C novels (and a few short stories) about adultery. Our reading will teach us about novelistic traditions of the period in question and about the relationship of Russian literature to the European models to which it responded. The course begins with a novel not about families falling apart, but about families coming together-Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. We then will turn to what is arguably the most well-known adultery novel ever written, Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Following this, we investigate a series of Russian revisions of the same thematic territory that range from "great literature" to pulp fiction, including Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and other works by Tolstoy, Chekhov, Leskov, and Nagrodskaia. As something of an epilogue to the course, we will read Milan Kundera's backward glance at this same tradition in nineteenth-century writing, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. In our coursework we will apply various critical approaches in order to place adultery into its social and cultural context, including: sociological descriptions of modernity, Marxist examinations of family as a social and economic institution, Freudian/ Psychoanalytic interpretations of family life and transgressive sexuality, Feminist work on the construction of gender.