A Quickie Guide to Picking Courses

A summary of what's new, what's news, and what's just darn funny.

Every year, it's the same old story. Late at night, on the eve of shopping period, Harvard students sequester themselves in their rooms to ponder the answer to a weighty question: which four courses truly warrant the expense of my considerable intellectual capital?

It's not as if the College makes it too easy on us. True, a few weeks before classes begin, we do receive a shrink-wrapped Courses of Instruction catalog.

Usually, however, students merely glance at its cover--to see how the funky graphics have changed from the year before--and then tuck it away for safekeeping. Breaking the book's seal, many fear, would be a mistake comparable to Pandora's famous gaffe, for it would spell the immediate end to the carefree days of summer vacation.

And so it is that the book sits, its wrapping intact until that fateful late-night encounter.

When students finally do dare to rip the precious seal, all but those most secure in their academic pursits are confronted with a stark reality: this book is 1.12 inches thick, 791 pages long, 1.5 pounds heavy. There's no way to read about every course, much less to give them all fair consideration. Even if we choose well, we'll always wonder: could we have chosen better?


Aware of this dilemma, the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) has sought to aid us in our desperation. As everyone knows, the CUE guide offers a convenient numerical compass in our arduous selection process.

But, with descriptions, it hedges. For example, in describing Professor Derek Parfit's Philosophy 161, Topics in Metaphysics, the guide notes, "Although a handful of those surveyed call [Parfit's] clarity impeccable, a slightly smaller number contend that the import of his lectures can be nebulous." Well, which is it?!

Anyway, as that last Sunday before shopping period approaches, we at Dartboard thought we'd see what we could do to help out our fellow Harvardians in picking some magic quartets. So, for those who appreciate quality infotainment, we dutifully submit a delightfully biased parade through some of the more provocative of this year's offerings:


For starters, the results of some exhaustive statistical research. The following are courses offered this year with CUE guide average scores of 2.5 or below for both "workload" and "difficulty." Your fellow students thought they were a breeze in the recent past, so maybe you too can pump up a sagging GPA while maintaining that essential 12 hours of snooze-time per diem:

Literature and Arts A-68. Poets and Poetry in the Celtic Literary Tradition

Literature and Arts B-75. Composing Music Since 1950

Literature and Arts C-37. The Bible and Its Interpreters

Anthropology 136. Diet, Nutrition, and Human Growth

Anthropology 159. Museums and Representations: Exhibiting Cultures