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General Education Program

» First-Year Foundation Courses

Spring 2019

+ - Earth's Spheres and the Changing Climate

Hesham El-Askary, Ph.D. - Professor, Director, Hazards, Global and Environmental Change and Computational Science Programs
FFC 100-04 (T/Th, 11:30a.m.-12:45p.m.)

There is no point in denying climate change because we are living in a dynamic interactive system that is made up by a series of spheres: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, and the biosphere. Global warming, rising temperature and CO2 emissions have been the only focus of media, main stream people and politicians. What about the domino effect in our fragile Earth system? In this class we will discuss different aspects of these effects associated with the above-mentioned spheres of the Earth system, how they interact to shape the environment in which we live, and how they are affected by our changing climate.

+ - Free Speech and the University

Gordon Babst, Ph.D. - Associate Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
FFC 100-07 (M/W, 2:30 - 3:45 p.m.)

Priority registration will be given to majors in Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Some seats will be available to all other majors.

This course prepares students to think critically through some vexing challenges facing the contemporary university involving free speech and inclusive public discourse. The course also presents court cases involving a variety of socially stigmatized or simply disliked forms of expression where decisions have turned on giving voice to marginalized persons, ideas, or artistic expression.

The proposed course is grounded in liberal-democratic theory, itself interdisciplinary (both Political Science and Philosophy), and uses copious examples from the Humanities to illustrate how the understanding of freedom of expression has evolved in the American context and its role in liberating free inquiry, but also in maintaining exclusion.

+ - Histories of Consciousness: Reading the Word, Reading the World, Re-Writing Our Histories

Miguel Zavala, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, Attallah College of Educational Studies
FFC 100-05 (M/W, 1-2:15 p.m.)

We live in a complex reality, where technology, media, and education as major institutions have come to shape how we see the world and ourselves. We are, in many ways, alienated from each other and the world around us, as evidenced by the increasing violence in our society that is perpetuated by class, race, gender, and other systems of domination. Yet people also resist and strive for meaning and community as they socially dream a renewed world. This course is an exploration in consciousness, how it is mediated and shaped historically. But it’s also a course on how consciousness becomes generative and can lead to social transformation.  How do social and historical conditions shape our consciousness? How can our consciousness in turn shape the self and society? What role does education and learning play in the formation of a critical consciousness? In this course students will analyze how the question of consciousness and its formation has been approached by different scholarly traditions and will engage in authentic action-research experiences that enable them to experience first-hand the process of coming to critically know and transform the world.

+ - If Buddha Walked Mindfully on Stage: Viewing Character through a Zen Lens

Julie Artman, M.F.A. - Lecturer and Chair, Collections Management Division for the Leatherby Libraries
FFC 100-02 (TBA)

Buddha-nature and mindfulness have become the de rigueur everywhere you look: in the workplace, in relationships, and in education. What does the story of the Buddha have to tell us about the interactions and behaviors of characters from dramatic literature? In this course students will explore Buddha-nature and mindfulness to see how its teachings and practices can be used to examine, discuss, and analyze character struggles and triumphs from dramatic literature. Reviewing theatrical performances will provide students with direct observational opportunities, and students will engage in both analytic and creative projects, including mindfulness practices, individually and collaboratively.

+ - Intelligence, Race, Music and Sports

Keith Howard, Ph.D. - Associate Professor and Director, Donna Ford Attallah Academy for Teaching and Learning
FFC 100-03 (T/TH, 11:30a.m.-12:45p.m.)

Perceptions and perspectives on race and intelligence are reflected in, and influenced by, various forms of media. This course will examine common themes in popular song lyrics and sports commentary, contrasting them with common beliefs about race and intelligence. Students will examine their own musical and societal influences and think critically about how those influences might shape their own views on the academic prowess, general aptitude, and professional success of different groups. By examining lyrics and transcripts of their favorite songs and sporting events, students will critically discuss and dissect the possible impacts of commonly used terms, phrases, and idioms in popular media.

+ - Lies You Learned in School

James Brown, Ph.D. - Professor of Teaching, Attallah College of Educational Studies
FFC 100-09 (M/W, 1–2:15 p.m.)
FFC 100-10 (M/W, 2:30–3:45 p.m.)

What histories did you learn in school? Should history only be the story of the dominant culture, or should it include narratives that contradict the "American Celebrationist" perspective? This course provides a critical analysis of important social themes (e.g., identity, conformity, and bystander vs. upstander) linked to key histories (e.g., the Holocaust and other genocides, America in Vietnam). The course is based on the assumption that if citizens in a democracy are to value their rights and take responsibility for their actions, they must know not only the triumphs of history but also the failures and tragedies. As students study the historical development and the lessons of "difficult" histories, they learn to make the essential connections between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives.

+ - Literature and Film

Walter Tschacher, Ph.D. - Professor of Languages, Department of World Languages and Cultures, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
FFC 100-11 (T/TH, 8:30-9:45a.m.)

Priority registration will be given to majors in Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Some seats will be available to all other majors.

In this course students will critically examine films in relation to their source material (both English and in translation) and the social, historical, and cultural contexts of both. Possible texts/films include Death in Venice (Thomas Mann/Visconti) and Room with a View (E. M. Forster/J. Ivory). We will consider not only the adaptation of literary works but also the inverse process, called novelization (i.e., the film serves as the basis for literature; for instance, some James Bond and Star War films underwent novelization). The course will take up such questions as: How does the change in medium produce a new text/meaning? When comparing and contrasting literature and film, what are their relative strengths and weaknesses? How is literary and visual art affected by commerce, and vice-versa—how, for example, is "popular" art coded as more or less authentic than "high" art?

+ - Los Angeles in Film and Fiction

Atalia Lopez, M.A. - Lecturer, Department of English, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
FFC 100-06 (T, 4–6:45 p.m.)

When Joyce Carol Oates asks, “If the City is a text, how shall we read it?” she presents a question that connects a dynamic and physical space to something more abstract. If a city is a text, as she proposes, how will we engage with it as “readers” and come to some level of greater understanding? In this course students will explore representations of the city of Los Angeles, with particular emphasis on its portrayal in films and literary texts. Throughout the semester we will read and view texts that prominently feature the urban space of Los Angeles. Through study, discussion, and research we will examine how the city functions within these imagined worlds and tackle some central questions and many others: how is Los Angeles different from other major American cities? What is the function of Los Angeles as an urban environment? What are some central themes that we can see developing across the texts we read/view? Does its representation differ at all between the mediums of film and literature? Texts may include films such as Sunset Blvd., Chinatown, Blade Runner, L.A. Confidential, Drive, and novels such as Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust, Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays, Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Charles Bukowski's Post Office, and T.C. Boyle's The Tortilla Curtain.

+ - Skepticism 101, or How to Think Like a Scientist Without Being a Geek

Michael Shermer, Ph.D. - Ph.D. – Presidential Fellows in General Education
FFC 100-01 (TH, 4-6:45 p.m.)

The founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and the “Skeptic” monthly columnist for Scientific American will introduce you to the world of skepticism and science through some of the most controversial ideas of our time: science and pseudoscience, superstition and the paranormal, evolution and intelligent design creationism, climate denial and “political” science, anti-vaccination and alternative medicine, pseudo-history and Holocaust denial, UFOs and alien abductions, the afterlife and reincarnation, God and religion, and religious-based morality vs. science-based morality. You will learn how to think critically and skeptically without becoming a science geek, and learn to be open-minded enough to accept new ideas without being so open-minded that your brains fall out. The course includes numerous in-class demonstrations, videos, magic, illusions, and examples from pop culture along with rigorous scientific research. Be prepared to have your worldviews challenged.

+ - Stories We Live By, Language, and Ecology

Geraldine McNenny, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Projects on Writing, Attallah College of Educational Studies
FFC 100-08 (T/TH, 10-11:15a.m.)

The stories we live by are often unexamined, but their impact on our planet’s future is significant. In this course we’ll examine the ways in which the stories we live by and that we absorb in our daily lives shape our relationship to the environment, from the food we eat and the news and advertising we consume, to our awareness of our agency in caring for the earth. The good news is that we can change those stories to create a more sustainable life on earth through our awareness of the language we use. This class will focus on that positive possibility.

+ - Story

Priority registration will be given to majors in Creative Producing, Film Production, and Screenwriting in the Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. Some seats will be available to all other majors.

Samantha Peale - Lecturer, Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts
FFC 100-12 (T, 7-9:45 p.m.)

Amy Stephens - Lecturer, Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts
FFC 100-13 (F, 1-3:45 p.m.)

This First-year Foundations course aims to engage students in university-level critical inquiry and reflection. The focus is on critical engagement, exploration and communication related to analyzing story in its myriad of forms. The class will give students a strong foundation in one of the key goals of entertainment, media and cinema: to communicate a story for the multi-faceted purposes of informing, persuading, entertaining and transforming individuals, society, culture, and humanity. All of the arts will be used as inspiration for understanding the contemporary tools required for creating media and movies in today’s society. The study of “form” in other arts, such as poetry and music, will be applied to movie structure; the study of classic heroes and heroines from opera and literature will be applied to character development in modern media. Additionally, innovative storytelling models, such as non-linear storytelling, will also be explored. (3 credits)