New additions bring number of approved Gen Ed courses to 15

One new interdisciplinary class and three existing courses were recently approved for the new General Education curriculum that will begin replacing the Core Curriculum this fall.

The development brings the total number of Gen Ed courses that will be available over the next two years to 15, nine of which will come from the current Core.

The one new course, “Understanding Darwinism,” will be taught by History of Science professor Janet Browne and Biology lecturer Andrew Berry and will count toward the Science of Living Systems requirement.

Two Core classes were also approved: Government professor Jorge I. Domínguez’s Historical Study B-64: “The Cuban Revolution” will count for the Societies of the World category, and Government professor Kenneth A. Shepsle’s Social Analysis 46: “Thinking About Politics,” will meet the Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning requirement. In addition, Jens Meierhenrich’s Government 1235: “Genocide” will count for Societies of the World.

Berry said that he’s looking forward to co-teaching his new course, which he said will adopt an interdisciplinary approach.

“Across the board, evolution is about as exciting an idea as human beings have had because it explains so phenomenally much—existential questions like where we come from, why our brains work this way,” Berry said in an interview yesterday. “This reach and power...make it especially amenable to this interdisciplinary interaction.”

Berry said that compromising on the course description took “a lot of tugging and pulling,” but that he and Browne have now arrived at “a mutually agreed balance.”

The Gen Ed Standing Committee offered suggestions for the course but made no changes, Berry said.

The two professors are hoping to incorporate three unique teaching techniques, according to Berry. He said they are considering taking students to the Museum of Comparative Biology; hosting evolution debates during section; and asking students to take samples of their own DNA to create a “human family tree.”

Although the Gen Ed committee approved two existing Core courses, the instructors said they planned to tweak them slightly. Shepsle, for instance, said that although his Social Analysis class, “Talking About Politics,” currently does not assign problem sets, he said he is considering incorporating them next year.

Jay M. Harris, the chair of the Gen Ed committee, suggested one new idea for “The Cuban Revolution” when it becomes a Gen Ed class in 2009: teleconferences with students at the University of Havana.

Domínguez said he is currently exploring the feasibility of such an endeavor.

Meierhenrich could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The full list of newly approved Gen Ed courses is available at http://www.generaleducation.fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Bonnie J. Kavoussi can be reached at kavoussi@fas.harvard.edu.