by James A. Bacon
This January the University of Virginia offers what it calls “signature” courses, which address inter-disciplinary topics that are “timely and of enduring significance.” The University has just released a preliminary list of 11 courses for the 2021 term. Four appear to be devoid of overt political bias. But judging from the course descriptions, the rest have leftist perspectives baked in. Not one of the courses explicitly addresses conservative, libertarian or traditional perspectives on society. This is what passes for intellectual diversity at UVa today.
These excerpts are taken verbatim from the course descriptions:
ARTS 1505 The Art of Resistance
Faculty: Mona Kasra & Lydia Moyer (Drama and Art)
This course will focus on the role of the contemporary visual culture in staging social movements and the ways in which grassroots activists employ visually-oriented practices as a means of political resistance and collective mobilization. … Guest lectures will include activists, artists, and protesters from recent social movements such as Black Lives Matter, Appalachians Against Pipelines, and Extinction Rebellion, many of whom have connections to local Charlottesville and surrounding Virginia communities. Students will be evaluated based on reflective writing assignments on course content and a collaborative project-based final assignment.
HIST 2559/MDST 2559 Democracy in Danger
Faculty: Will Hitchcock and Siva Vaidhyanathan (History and Media Studies)
Democracy is in trouble today. Why? This course explores the growing threats to democracy in the United States and globally. Topics include: the impact of xenophobia, racism and radical nationalism on democracy; the rise of far-right media; the growth of White Power militias; legal barriers against voting, immigration and citizenship; as well as the impact of social media and cyber-based disinformation.
ENWR 2520 Global Advocacy, Democracy, and Public Narrative
Faculty: Stephen Parks (English)
In the face of rising authoritarianism, democratic activists across the globe are organizing and advocating for fundamental political rights. Over the ten days of this J-Term course, students in have the opportunity to meet, discuss, as well as work with such global activists, discovering how they craft public narratives for a better future, develop inclusive strategies, and build movements for change. … Engaging effectively in democratic activism, however, requires more than pragmatic skills. Activists must possess their own sense of the meaning of democracy, premised in the political and cultural traditions of their communities/countries. They must understand theories of public narrative, the local concepts that speak to inclusion and unity. And they must possess an understanding of how change occurs, so that a conception of democracy and public narrative produce results for those too often on the wrong side of privilege.
PLAN 3810/ARCH 3500 Climate Justice in Cities: Designing for Systems Change
Faculty: Barbara Brown Wilson and Jeana Ripple (Architecture)
This course introduces design and systems thinking techniques to address the interrelated crises of climate change and social inequity in U.S. cities. The intersectional impact of climate change and social inequity is at the heart of a broad contemporary congressional resolution entitled the Green New Deal [GND]. The GND proposal sets targets within a “just transition” framework but leaves much of the process up for further interpretation. This course asks how such transformational change might work in cities- introducing students to design and systems thinking techniques to examine the socio-technical context, challenges, and opportunities that animate systems change in the built world.
HIST 2559/RELG 2559 Whiteness: History of a Racial Category
Faculty: Jalane Schmidt and Andrew Kahri (Religious Studies and History)
The insidious systematic injustices resulting from white supremacy, and the phenomena of “white privilege” and “white fragility” have been recent topics of debate in the U.S., where a resurgent white nationalism has unleashed violent political conflict. This course examines the necessary prior question: what is “whiteness”? Often functioning as an unmarked category of putative racelessness against which raced “Others” were contrasted, whiteness was treated as self-evident and eluded critical examination. Upon closer review, the shifting definitions of whiteness reveal the inherent instability of its boundaries, and the efforts to police them.
How to Build a Healthy Human Brain
Faculty: Jessica Connelly and James Morris (Psychology)
The social, mental, and physical well-being of humans is dependent upon slow maturation of a number of critical biological systems over the course of the lifespan. Biological and environmental influences on the maturation of these systems are vast and varied. … We will discuss how modern society has introduced many challenges to these developmental experiences including social, environmental and educational inequality, which are a direct threat to these natural human processes.
MDST 3559 Race, Protest, and the Media
Faculty: Camilla Fojas and Shilpa Dave (Media Studies)
How does media frame and influence how protests centered on racial justice become touchstone generational events? Our class will frame contemporary movements around BLM, Undocumented and Unafraid, protests against the Muslim ban, and the success of groundbreaking texts such as Black Panther through the lens of key media moments of historical protest. We will study the rise of the Power Movements and Ethnic Studies in the 1960s, the Immigration Rights movement that rose in response to anti-Asian and Anti-Latinx violence along with analysis of the Rodney King beating and subsequent L.A. Riots of the 1990s.
Only four classes appeared in their descriptions to be free from overt leftist perspectives. One addresses Buddhist meditation in the modern secular world. One explores pandemics as complex scientific and social phenomena. One is an Introduction to Cognition and Cognitive Biases.
A fourth course, “The Past, Present, and Future of Mankind,” asked questions that hinted that the professors would be open to non-leftist perspectives: What makes civilizations rise and fall? Will traits that made us a successful species serve us in the future, or are we domed by our very nature?
UVa President Jim Ryan insists that the university community is based on the free exchange of ideas. I will present his defense of that proposition — in which this list of signature courses is not mentioned — in my next post.There are currently no comments highlighted.