Does what you study in school connect with your everyday life?
Each day of our lives, we move through a web of immensely complex systems. (For that matter, just being yourself, let alone figuring out who “we” might be, is not simple.) There are academic disciplines that study every aspect of ourselves and our world — from the biological processes that enable us to digest breakfast, to the cultural meanings of late-night television; from the economic implications of going or not going to college, to the environmental consequences of what we choose for dinner. But they don’t study them all at the same time. Disciplines can be rigorous exactly because they politely decline to deal with everything. College students and college professors work hard at our studies, but we are human beings and we still have to deal with everything else too. So we tend to make a distinction between “book-learning” and “real life.”
This course is designed to be “general education” in the strongest possible sense. We will not try to achieve a thorough knowledge of any academic discipline, although we will take a good look at the tradition of writing about everyday life in the field of cultural studies. Mostly, we will move through big, varied topics — such as the brain, money, and the meaning of life — exploring the surprising things that experts can show us about them. The course will suggest not only that school is connected with the rest of what we do, but that scholarly knowledge can help us to achieve a critical awareness of everyday life and thus to become more fully alive.
Students will write several papers, take an exam, and make an oral presentation to the class.
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