Outlandish college courses: The Dirty Dozen for private (non-Ivy League) schools

Kate L. Edwards Contributor
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Despite the nearly laughable price tags, there are many terrific reasons to attend a private undergraduate school. Classes are often smaller; the atmosphere is usually more intimate and exclusive; professors frequently know students by their first names; even the campuses seem somehow more collegiate.

For many of the same reasons, though, private schools seem to have an easier time indoctrinating students. Agendas vary quite a bit, of course. At Westmont College in Southern California, for example, where students must attend chapel three times a week, it’s fair to say that the school actively promotes Christianity.

At many of the most prestigious American colleges, the agenda is heaping helpings of stereotypically left-liberal thought.

Below, The Daily Caller continues its presentation of Young America’s Foundation’s The Dirty Dozen. Today’s list covers private schools ranked in the top 50 by U.S. News & World Report.

Course descriptions are reprinted verbatim from the schools’ websites.

Georgetown University, Sociology: Sociology of the 1 Percent

Hardly a day passes when the 1 percent is not in the news arousing political and moral passions. Today, less than 1 percent of Americans own nearly 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. The wealthiest 400 Americans are worth roughly $1.37 trillion. This amazing concentration of wealth at the top has been accompanied by a falling middle class and a growing number of Americans living in poverty. All of us have strong feelings about social justice and fairness and it is easy to grasp at simple solutions to complex problems. In this course, however, we move beyond moral and political posturing by examining the sociology of the 1 percent in order to understand the long-term significance of this concentration of wealth, its effect on our commonwealth, and our common destiny as a people.

Vanderbilt University, American Studies: Music as Social Protest

What do Woody Guthrie, James Brown, and Dead Kennedys have in common? Besides being great musicians, they all have used music as a way to challenge cultural, social, political, and economic conditions in the United States. In this class we will learn how different artists have brought music into social movements from the 1930s through the 1980s, and determine how they influenced the movements themselves and larger sociocultural trends in the process. By tracing the evolution of genres of music including folk, rock, funk, singer-songwriters, punk, and early hip-hop, we will also look at how styles of performance and the relationships between performers and audiences have shaped the ways in which music has been used as a tool for reform.

Tufts University, Sociology: Making Social Change Happen: Grassroots Activism and Community Organizing

Workers; racial-ethnic groups; women; gays and lesbians; environmental, health, and food activists; immigrants; low-income people; and many other groups in their struggles for social and economic justice have made social change happen by the methods of grassroots activism and community organizing. These methods build power from the bottom up to create solutions to a wide range of local and global problems. In this way of doing social change, previously marginalized and under-represented people define and address their own issues on their own terms. Trained organizers help to identify and develop indigenous leaders, and build democratically run organizations that institutionalize permanent power for people who have lacked power. Organizing makes it possible for people to improve the conditions of their own lives. We will consider why and how people organize, the limits and possibilities of local and grassroots organizing, and how local and grassroots efforts can connect to larger macro-level social change and to politics.

University of Notre Dame, Peace Studies: Global Activism

Take action now! This course is about transnational networking, organizing, and campaigning for social change, with equal attention for conceptual and substantive issues. Conceptual issues include framing, strategies, tactics, and actors. The issue areas examined are labor, human rights, women’s rights, the environment, peace and disarmament, and anti-globalization. The course zooms in on specific campaigns like global warming, violence against women, and ban-the-bomb. Counter-campaigns are also reviewed and readings on any given issue or campaign always include a critical or dissident voice.

Rice University, History: Karl Marx in Context

Seminar examines the stages of Marx’s thought from 1841 to 1881. Topics include Hegelianism, Feuerbach, the break with ethical thought, the “discovery” of the proletariat, the party, the commodity, the working day, the crisis of capitalism, and alternative models of development.

Georgetown University, Women’s and Gender Studies: The Breast: Image, Myth, and Legend

Feminist historian Marilyn Yalom once wrote that “In the beginning was the breast.” Sacred, sensual, sexual, political, and societal, the female breast has been transformed through image, myth, and legend to render multiple meanings from nurture and sustenance to enslaving obsession and civic virtue. The symbolism of the female breast has traversed and been formed by religious, political, and social ideas all of which have been depicted in the arts. Understanding the visual arts as primary evidence in the study of history and reflective of societal perceptions of sexuality and gender, this chronological survey of the breast in Western art and culture reveals the potential lightning rods and miscues in how our 21st-century eyes interpret history and meaning especially with regards to women and gender. Beginning with the Paleolithic mother goddesses whose large breasts signified fertility and lactation, we will examine the multiple meanings in the historical transformations of the image of the female breast from the Christian symbolism of the Maria Lactans (Nursing Mother) to the Renaissance exaltation of female sensuality and the Enlightenment tradition of the republic as woman and political symbol of liberty to the voyeuristic obsessions of 20th-century advertising and entertainment.

Duke University, History, American Dreams/American Realities

Examines the role of such myths as “rags to riches,” “beacon to the world,” “the frontier” and “foreign devil” in defining the American character and determining hopes, fears, dreams, and actions throughout American History. Attention given to the surface consistency of these myths as accepted by each immigrant group versus the shifting content of the myths as they change to reflect the hopes and values of each of these groups.

Stanford University, History: Social Democracy from Marx to Gross National Happiness

The history of the ‘short twentieth century’ is often told as the struggle between Capitalism and Communism, as if there were no further alternatives. But the search for a “Third Way” between them was a constant feature of the 20th century, with roots deep in the 19th. One such system, Social Democracy, has a strong claim to be providing its citizens with both prosperity and justice. Explores the relationship of ideas and politics and about Social Democracy considered as a “third system”: a social, economic and political system in its own right and, at the same time, a radical critique of both Capitalism and Marxist Communism. Topics include: the development of Social Democratic thought, movements, tactics policies and practices to be examined through the analysis of the writings of Marx, Bernstein, the English Fabians, and the 20th century Scandinavian and German thinkers and practitioners of Social Democracy; the history and practice of political parties, labor movements, and governments; the institutionalization of Social Democracy in Britain, Western, Central and Northern Europe, and in the so-called “developing societies”; contemporary debates as “Social Europe” and “Gross National Happiness”; and the growth of a “social democratic sensibility” and culture. Several films will be screened during the course.

Stanford University, Environmental Earth System Science: The Global Warming Paradox III

Further discussion of the complex climate challenges posed by the substantial benefits of energy consumption, including the critical tension between the enormous global demand for increased human well-being and the negative climate consequences of large-scale emissions of carbon dioxide. Discussions will explore topics of student interest, including peer-reviewed scientific papers, current research results, and portrayal of scientific findings by the mass media and social networks.

Rice University, Environmental Studies: The Science behind Earth Global Warming and Climate Change

The course will introduce the students to the science behind last century Earth global warming in the context of the past records of global Earth climate variability and forecast of Earth climate in the next century.

Johns Hopkins University, Earth and Planetary Sciences: Conversation with the Earth

A discussion of current topics on Earth’s origin, evolution, and habitability. Topics will include extinction of life from meteorite impact, global warming, ozone depletion, volcanism, ice ages, and catastrophic floods, among others.

Carnegie Mellon University, Economics: Political Economy of Inequality and Redistribution

Three basic types of institution – markets, communities, and states (i.e. public governments) – determine the distribution of economic resources and opportunities in societies. The balance between these governing institutions has changed dramatically over time, at very different rates across societies. This course will begin with economic and political theory on why these differences over time and across countries may exist. Then it will survey some of these differences across both industrialized and pre-industrial societies and investigate their causes and consequences. Some of the questions the course will ask include the following: In the industrialized world, the public sector (government) plays a much larger role in Europe than in the United States. Why is this so? How does this affect the quality of everyday life for different classes of people? How have globalization and technological change affected the distribution of income and social policy in industrialized countries, and how does this affect the public sector? In some tribal societies, people have no access to markets at all. How does this affect distributive behavior within communities? Finally, what might be the ultimate causes of income inequality on a global scale? Are there prehistoric and environmental roots in the ways peoples of different societies live today? This course will examine these questions by studying theoretical and empirical research conducted by economists, economic anthropologists, political economists, and economic geographers on these questions.


Stay tuned for tomorrow’s final installment of The Dirty Dozen, which will cover public universities.


Kate Edwards is the program officer for chapter services for Young Americans for Freedom, a Project of Young America’s Foundation.

Kate L. Edwards