Ec 10 Tops List of Largest Courses

With the new course numbers out for the spring semester, the perennial leaders for highest enrollment—Ec 10 and Life Sciences—have topped the list once again, alongside newcomer Music 1b and a relic from the past: Positive Psychology.

Longtime leader Social Analysis 10: “Principles of Economics,” claimed the top spot, enrolling 640 undergraduates­. Word of the news filled economics Professor N. Gregory Mankiw with love.

“I think it’s terrific that students are taking economics, and I love teaching Ec 10, and I love the fact that students love taking Ec 10, and I love the fact that the economics department is an increasingly popular major,” Mankiw said in an interview.

One hundred seventy-two fewer students are taking the course compared to last semester. But Mankiw said the drop-off occurs because many students initially enroll to fulfill the Social Analysis Core requirement; they only choose to “stick around” if they are interested in the material.

Trailing Ec 10 was Psychology 1504: “Positive Psychology,” which drew 587 undergraduates, down 30 percent from the 846 students it last enrolled in the fall of 2006.

The course, taught by lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar ’96, made national headlines in 2006 as many in the media derided the fact that Harvard students flocked to a course about how to be happy.

Two other traditional favorites—Literature and Arts C-70: “From the Hebrew Bible to Judaism, From the Old Testament to Christianity” and Life Sciences 1b, which focuses on genetics—made the top-five list again. Both courses saw increases in enrollment compared to a year ago: from 270 to 433 for the Bible course, and from 336 to 378 for Life Sciences.

Fathima F. Jahufar ’11, who is enrolled in the Bible course, said the class has outgrown its original home in Emerson 105 and will relocate to Sanders Theater.

“People have been sitting on the floor, and it’s been packed,” Jahufar said.

Shaye J. D. Cohen, who teaches the course, said in an e-mailed statement that its popularity may come from the taboo attitude towards its subject in secondary schools.

“Most high schools, unless they are religious in orientation, are scared to teach the Bible and even more scared to teach Religion, lest they offend someone,” Cohen said.

A new member of the most-popular club is Music 1b: “Introduction to Western Music from Beethoven to the Present.” The course’s enrollment septupled compared to when it was last offered two years ago, rising from 48 to 333 students.

The increasing popularity of some courses has created some challenges for professors and students.

When History of Art and Architecture 10, the department’s introductory course, was last offered in the spring of 2006, it had 140 students. This semester, the number leapt to 276.

But because of the course’s popularity, Professor Henri Zerner instituted a lottery, citing the size of the room and the dearth of competent teaching fellows.

Though Zerner said he feels “very badly” for students who lost the lottery, he said that having an over-subscribed course was a good problem.

“I’m glad it’s popular­,” he said. “Better than the opposite.”

—Staff writer Esther I. Yi can be reached at estheryi@fas.harvard.edu.