COMM 200 - The Academic Paradox
Section: 001
Term: FA 2007
Subject: Communication Studies (COMM)
Department: LSA Communication Studies
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
Other Course Info:
Does not count toward concentrations in American Culture, Communication Studies, or Psychology.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Have you given a lot of thought to why you are spending four years of your life and approximately $200,000 (of somebody's money) to get a piece of paper certifying a degree from the University of Michigan? Maybe you've given it some thought, but probably not a lot. Your folks and your peers in high school expected that you would go to college, so you did. That's usually about it.

Are you utilizing this investment wisely while you're in Ann Arbor? Are you taking the right courses? If you're not sure what you want to do, or why exactly you're here, how could you know? The good news is that there are some useful and thought-provoking answers to such questions, many of them hidden in the nooks and crannies of liberal arts curriculum itself.

In this course students are challenged to apply the insights they have been learning from their study of history, sociology, psychology, economics and the humanities to their own current role as college student. A central theme concerns how the student role relates to succeeding roles in the institutional complex of modern society. One principal paradox that motivates this course of inquiry is the celebrated disjuncture between the abstract study of literature, sciences, and the arts and the "practical knowledge base" that one would expect draw upon most professional careers. In common parlance the word "merely academic" translates as "mostly irrelevant." But as it turns out, empirically and practically, a liberal arts education represents an excellent preparation for most professional careers, a paradox that invites the student to internalize and make use of some of the central concepts from the liberal arts as valuable resources rather than arcane requirements and rites of passage.

Key Topical Areas:

  • Cultures: On the Tension Between the Humanities and Sciences
  • Education and Ethics: Is There a Linkage Between the Two?
  • The Evolution of the Modern University
  • The Evolution of the Modern Scholarly Discipline
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
  • The Meaning of Globalization
  • On Writing Well
  • Grading and Achievement
  • Students and Society
  • Those Who March Grimly on the Career Treadmill
  • Human Capital Theory
  • The Effects of Education
  • The Reproduction of Social Inequalities
  • The Psychology

Course Requirements:

There are no examinations in this class. There are seven writing assignments with an assignment due approximately every two weeks. Four assignments are two-page briefs that summarize and interpret central themes in recent lectures and readings. In addition, two assignments consist of essays that require students to apply what they have learned to their own academic, career and life plans. The first essay is approximately eight pages in length, the second approximately twelve pages. Finally one assignment is a "lives-and-careers" book review of approximately eight pages. Students select a relevant biography of a leader in the fields of Law, Medicine, Business, Academics, Public Service / Government / Non Profits, the Arts, Media and Journalism, and Science and Engineering. The idea is to link lessons from a concrete example of a life story with the themes of the course concerning education, careers, and the life cycle.

Required texts:

  • Wilson, Edward O. (1998). Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. New York, Knopf. Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition $10.20
  • Machiavelli, Niccolò ([1513] 1989). The Prince. New York, Prometheus Bantam $4.50
  • Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (1962) University of Chicago Press $9.75 3rd edition
  • Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (1991). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, Harper Collins. $10.50

CP= Course Pack (Available at Excel 1117 S. University Avenue; Tel: 996-1500)

COMM 200 - The Academic Paradox
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
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