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The Macaulay Honors College

The Macaulay Honors College (MHC) is not affiliated with the Thomas Hunter Honors Program. For more information about the MHC, please visit the Macaulay Honors College website.

 

Honors Colloquia: Spring 2009

Click on a course name to read a description.

Course Name
Course Number/Section
Reading List
Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge
HONS 201.28/51
*
Navigation and the Literature of Discovery
HONS 201.29/01
*
The Broadway Musical: Scenes of Life in America
HONS 201.91/01
*
Politics, Culture, and the Interwar Left
HONS 301.22/51
*
The Science and Politics of Global Warming
HONS 301.49/01
*
Interdisciplinary Independent Study
HONS 301.99/01
TBD
Advanced Interdisciplinary Study
HONS 491.51/01
TBD


All course materials can be purchased at Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers, located at 939 Lexington Avenue.

 


Course Descriptions

Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge


This course will explore the ways in which different knowledge systems interact with each other in a society. There will be specific emphasis on the way in which scientific knowledge is taken up by a society into popular social constructions of understanding and into policy construction.

The course will look in some detail at three powerful influences on social and political development – two in South Africa and one in Nigeria. The two South African issues are the HIV/AIDS pandemic that is ravaging through rural and urban populations and the more recent energy crisis that faces this growing economy.  The Nigerian issue is the broad-based rejection of polio vaccination in the north of country. In all three cases the course will look at the following

  • The nature of the issue or crisis
  • The relevant science in each case
  • The way in which the science findings are placed in the public domain
  • The way in which the science findings are taken up by the public
  • The role of political and other leaders in shaping the debates
  • The way in which scientific knowledge is taken up in policy development

At the beginning of the course, students will identify issues at the global level with which to engage – such as global warming or food security.

Each student will write two short papers of 1000 words each on assigned topics, a longer research paper on a topic that will be decided between the student and the instructor and a group project.

Initial Readings

Mortal Combat – AIDS denialism and the Struggle for Antiretrovirals in South Africa­ by Nicoli Nattrass, UKZN Press, Pietermaritzburg, 2007

Science, Power and Policy Intersecting at the HIV/AIDS Pandemic by AC Bawa, Social Research, Volume 72, No. 3. New School University, Fall 2005. (ISSN 0037-783X)

The United States: The Formation and Breakdown of the Postwar Government-Science Compact by Bruce LR Smith in Scientists and the State, ed. Etel Solingen, University of Michigan Press, 1994

Requirements: The course will meet twice a week.  Attendance is required and students are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the reading.  Once a week, each student will post on Blackboard a short comment on the reading, concluding with a question which will be posed to the class for discussion.  Students will read each other’s questions and discuss them in class.

Each student will write two short papers (4-6 pages) on assigned topics and one longer research paper on a topic of the student’s choice.  For the research paper, the student must meet with the instructor at least once, submit a statement of topic and bibliography on dates to be assigned, submit a draft by the tenth week of class, and submit the completed paper in the last week of class.

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Navigation and the Literature of Discovery


The discovery of the New World is a momentous event in the history of the world, and how it all came about is quite remarkable. This course will examine what was known and what was believed about navigation and about the nature of the earth and its oceans in the 15th century, the importance of the spice trade, the events leading up to the discovery of the New World, and, what the first explorers and chroniclers wrote to explain the New World to others. Readings include: Travels of Marco Polo, The Diary of Christopher Columbus, Shipwrecked by Cabeza de Vaca, excerpts from Bernal Diáz del Castillo's History of the Conquest of New Spain, The Diaries of Captain Cook, and Longitude. We will also learn how to determine latitude and longitude while at sea, and we will study navigational instruments such as the compass and the sextant.  Other subjects of discussion include Portuguese navigation around the coasts of Africa, the importance of the discovery of the Gulf Stream, and the relationship between native peoples of the Americas and the first Europeans who came to the new world. We will also discuss explorers who made important contributions to the mapping of the world, such as Juan Ponce de León and Ferdinand Magellan, but who left us no writings of their own.

Course requirements: Midterm (essay) final examination, term project, and regular class attendance and participation.

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The Broadway Musical: Scenes of Life in America


The Broadway musical has played an important role in the artistic life of New York City and, indeed, the United States as a whole for more than three quarters of a century.  With roots in European operetta and music hall, the Broadway musical long ago established itself as a fundamentally American contribution to world-theater. As a combination of music, lyrics, drama, dance, and theater, the Broadway musical has brought serious issues of life in America before its audience. The South, the West, New England, New York City, Hollywood, diverse populations, celebrities, athletes, Americans at war, members of street gangs, and the young and restless--all these and more have sprung to life on the Broadway musical stage, examining such issues as race relations, sexism, marriage, parenthood, generation gaps, crime, the media, labor relations, and the business world.

This colloquium will study the Broadway musical in terms of music, words, dance, theater, and American history. Students will become familiar with a number of shows by such creative artists as Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Agnes De Mille, Oscar Hammerstein II, Cole Porter, Jule Styne, Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, and Stephen Sondheim.

Students will be evaluated on the basis of attendance and participation in classroom discussions; a paper (4-6 pages) on a topic assigned by the teacher; a paper (10-15 pages) on a topic chosen by the student and approved by the teacher; and a final examination dealing with both conceptual issues and factual information.

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Politics, Culture, and the Interwar Left


This course will explore the ways in which different knowledge systems interact with each other in a society. There will be specific emphasis on the way in which scientific knowledge is taken up by a society into popular social constructions of understanding and into policy construction.

The course will look in some detail at three powerful influences on social and political development – two in South Africa and one in Nigeria. The two South African issues are the HIV/AIDS pandemic that is ravaging through rural and urban populations and the more recent energy crisis that faces this growing economy.  The Nigerian issue is the broad-based rejection of polio vaccination in the north of country. In all three cases the course will look at the following

  • The nature of the issue or crisis
  • The relevant science in each case
  • The way in which the science findings are placed in the public domain
  • The way in which the science findings are taken up by the public
  • The role of political and other leaders in shaping the debates
  • The way in which scientific knowledge is taken up in policy development

At the beginning of the course, students will identify issues at the global level with which to engage – such as global warming or food security.

Each student will write two short papers of 1000 words each on assigned topics, a longer research paper on a topic that will be decided between the student and the instructor and a group project.

Initial Readings

Mortal Combat – AIDS denialism and the Struggle for Antiretrovirals in South Africa­ by Nicoli Nattrass, UKZN Press, Pietermaritzburg, 2007

Science, Power and Policy Intersecting at the HIV/AIDS Pandemic by AC Bawa, Social Research, Volume 72, No. 3. New School University, Fall 2005. (ISSN 0037-783X)

The United States: The Formation and Breakdown of the Postwar Government-Science Compact by Bruce LR Smith in Scientists and the State, ed. Etel Solingen, University of Michigan Press, 1994

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The Science and Politics of Global Warming


Global warming is both a set of scientific problems and political questions. In this course, we will think through some of the puzzles about the nature of scientific inquiry, the nature of the political and ethical questions about responsibility, as well as try to fashion some solutions to these problems.

Much of the reading will be drawn from contemporary writings and scientific arguments about global warming.  We will also read classic texts about the nature of science and scientific inquiry, such as Thomas Kuhn’s path-breaking work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions [1962, 1970]). We shall then proceed to look at evidence about global warming as a scientific issue, and about ways in which scientists evaluate evidence, dispute findings, and construct an account of the natural world.  We shall then turn to the nature of political communities, and consider how ethical issues and political issues are interconnected, and how people should make decisions in the face of uncertainty.  We will take into account, among others, the claims of Garrett Hardin in the “Tragedy of the Commons” (1968) and Ulrich Beck in Risk Society [1992].  Finally, we shall discuss how framing the problem of global warming shapes the kinds of political solutions available.

Students will be expected to participate in one of three debates/simulations over the course of the semester and to write a paper that reflects their involvement in:

  • The scientific debate: do humans contribute to global warming?
  • “The Tragedy of the Commons” and its meaning for global warming
  • “The New York Protocols:” how should we update the Kyoto Protocols?

In keeping with the contemporary nature of the topic, students will also write a weekly column (as if they were newspaper columnists) for the class that draws upon the class readings, discussions, outside readings, and responses to other students’ ideas.

Students will also be responsible for creating a blog that responds to contemporary events concerning climate change, the readings, class discussions, and other students’ writings.

Readings will also include:
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Report, 2007. (http://www.ipcc-wg2.org/)
Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat and Crowded, 2008.

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Interdisciplinary Independent Study


Students wishing to take this course will need two readers, from different disciplines, one of whom generally should be a member of the Council on Honors. In principle, the Council must approve the subject matter of such a paper before the student can register for the course. This course may be taken only once and does not count towards the three Honors Colloquia required of every member of the Program.

HONS 301.99 cannot replace any of the three required Honors Colloquia.

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Advanced Interdisciplinary Study


Upon completion of 90 credits, certified Honors Program students may be admitted by the Council on Honors to Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies, with the opportunity of engaging in advanced independent study under the Council's supervision. A project for a thesis or other appropriate report of the results of the student's research is presented to the Council, which must approve it the semester previous to registration. Three sponsors, from at least two departments, one of whom must be a member of the Council on Honors, will supervise the work. The final product must be approved by all three sponsors and the Council.

HONS 491.51 cannot replace any of the three required Honors Colloquia.

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