How We Think and Why it Matters
How does the way we think impact our lives? In this course, we will discuss the current state of our understanding of cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, knowledge organization, and judgment. In parallel with these discussions, we will discuss real-world situations where consideration of how our cognitive processes work can inform us about our own behavior and/or public policy. Among the topics we will cover in this course are: 1) the impact of cell phone use on car accident rates; 2) the accuracy of eyewitness memory, and if it should be used as a source of evidence in our legal system; and 3) how we make decisions when we are faced with uncertainty.
Food Politics 2017: An Unfolding Story
Food politics are about the ways decisions are made in food systems from farm to plate that affect who has access to resources, markets, and food. In this class, we’ll look at what’s happening in food politics and what’s at stake. This year is significant in food politics both because of a new administration in Washington with a marked shift in priorities from the Obama administration, which set healthy food for children as a priority with its Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, and because planning for the 2018 farm bill will be underway in earnest. The farm bill is a massive multi-billion-dollar bill that covers food stamps, farm subsidies, farm research, conservation, food aid, and other topics. Food politics at the state and municipal levels tend to be much more open to new ideas than Congress, and we’ll be examining some examples of progressive policies in Vermont and cities to deal with specific issues.
What Can I Say? Free Speech in the United States and Europe
Freedom of speech is a core value in liberal democracies. Yet, at times, it conflicts with our desire to limit racism in our public discussions. These tensions play out in politics, in the media, in the workplace, and on college campuses. We will look at the development of legal speech doctrines in the post-World War Two era, drawing on well-known case studies from American constitutional history, as well as European examples such as the Danish cartoon controversy and Holocaust denial cases. Through comparison across time and country, we will debate the appropriate limits on racist speech in different contexts.
The Rich Geological History of Vermont
Vermont, part of the Appalachian mountain system, is amazing in its variety of bedrock geology. Studies of the bedrock have revealed the elegant story of the appearance and disappearance of an ancient ocean basin. The accompanying tectonic plate motions resulted in the building of the Appalachian mountains. In this course, we will learn about modern plate tectonics and critical parts of the geology of Vermont so that we can understand (and perhaps amend) plate tectonic models that attempt to explain the geological evolution of our state. We will have lots of fun in the classroom putting together this geological jigsaw puzzle and we will venture out on two afternoon field trips to see rocks in their local setting (stops will be either leisurely strolls or at roadside outcrops).
The British Crime Drama
Sherlock, Inspector Lewis, Ripper Street, Prime Suspect, Luther: These are but a few of the British television crime dramas that have populated our screens in recent years. This course is designed to familiarize us with the grammar of this genre of television programming. What makes them pleasurable; why do we watch them even when they are formulaic; what makes them different from their American counterparts? We will explore briefly the political economy of the British broadcasting industry; Britain’s encounters with modernity; Britain’s colonial and postcolonial histories; and the structures of race, class, gender and sexuality in the island nation. We will seek to understand what may account for these shows’ legibility across national and cultural borders. We will also explore how these fairly banal narratives cross into the US under the imprimatur of quality television. Through video clips and social media engagements we will explore the morphology of the crime drama and how it has shifted over the past century. The readings are designed to allow us to speculate meaningfully on the socio-historical and cultural factors that may have facilitated these changes.