The University of Massachusetts Amherst

"Education and Film": Education 167 (GenEd SB) Fall 2021

Students will live together in Thoreau Hall in the Southwest residential area.

Read what Fall 2021 instructor Ali Soken has to say about the course 

What do movies like Mean Girls, Dead Poets' Society, The Breakfast Club, and Freedom Writers teach us about education? Do the way films represent school, students, and teaching reflect or reproduce our views about particular students and schools? What and how do movies teach us and why does it matter?

In this course we will:

  • Examine Hollywood representations of teaching and schooling- in other words, watch movies
  • Analyze film as both a product and producer of American society and culture
  • Learn to identify and understand dominant educational ideologies and the real world impact these ideologies have
  • Conduct media analysis based on race, class, gender, and sexuality
  • Reflect on our own identities and educational experiences
  • Have Fun!

Problems in Social Thought - Philosophy 170 (Gen Ed SB) Fall 2021

Students will live together in Kennedy in the Southwest residential area. 

Read What Fall 2021 instructor Moises Macias Bustos has to say about the course: 

Individuals have moral values and they seek to approach their relationships with others in a way which reflects those values. This course explores the intersection of philosophy and politics. Throughout the semester we will investigate the connection between the moral values people have and how society should be arranged as a whole to reflect those values. We will address these two crucial questions:  

  1. Given some prior moral commitments, such as valuing freedom or equality, how should people organize politically in order to make good on those commitments? 
  2. Suppose we can discover how society should be organized politically given our moral values.  

What economic, technological or environmental constraints stand in the way of implementing this vision?  

To address such questions we will be reading some important works of political philosophy supplemented by thought-provoking readings exploring connections between philosophy, economics, technology and worldly complexity. I will provide detailed guides to these difficult issues and provide assistance throughout. We will consider questions such as:  

  • Why care about politics at all?  
  • What is the nature of the state?  
  • Is the state morally justified or should people live in a stateless society?  
  • Why is liberty important?  
  • What does the state owe its citizens?  
  • Is equality more important than liberty or the other way around?  

As the semester progresses we will take the abstract philosophical principles we have learned and apply them to real life questions related to topics such as global warming, and the impact of artificial intelligence. We will consider the role that economic constraints play in our attempt to construct a morally principled society? These are questions are any policy maker should consider when framing policy in response to a complex world.  

Exploring Society