In 1945, Harvard let the country know about their first General Education curriculum with a hardcover red book that they mailed to schools, libraries, and universities across the country. In 2009, they are marketing the curriculum to Harvard's student body a little differently--with course trailers.
Inspired by the course trailer that East Asian Studies professor Shigehisa Kuriyama created for his class Culture and Belief 11: "Medicine and the Body in East Asia and Europe" over a year ago, Gen Ed administrators have encouraged professors to create videos to make their Gen Ed classes look new (even if they aren't). Gen Ed administrators Jay Harris and Stephanie Kenen could not be reached for comment.
Nine professors so far have pulled this off with varying levels of success. Notably, none of these eight course trailers are in the sciences. Anyway, a few of these course trailers are actually sort of cool, so FlyBy has ranked them. Our Top Three list is after the jump.3) Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 17: "Soundscapes: Exploring Music in a Changing World"
This former Core class' course trailer has lots of beautiful world music. And a live bagpipe player.
2) Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 14: "Putting Modernism Together"
With snatches of music ranging from The Jetsons' theme song to Mahler-like brass, English professor Daniel Albright's former Core class' course trailer is pretty cool. The best part, however, may be the philosophical undertones:
"There's no strangeness that has not excellent beauty," Albright says. "Some of the material covered in this course you may find overtly charming. Some of the material you may find savage and dark. But I hope that everything will finally be a source of delight."
1) Societies of the World 19: "Western Ascendancy: The Mainsprings of Global Power from 1600 to the Present"
This excerpt from Niall Ferguson's recent PBS documentary series, "The War of the World," without a doubt snatches the Number 1 spot. The other professors are not half as photogenic, nor do their trailers have half as many explosions (which is really the important part for FlyBy).
"On the eve of the 20th century, H.G. Wells imagined a war of the worlds in which alien invaders left the capital city of the world's greatest empire in ruins," Ferguson says as he searches through the bombed ruins of an ancient castle. "Most people think of his book as a work of science fiction. In fact, it was a work of astonishing prescience."
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ABX