I am teaching two sections of something called “Paideia” this semester. Paideia is Greek for “education” and this course introduces freshmen to the skills necessary for a successful liberal arts career–critical thinking, engagement with others, reading comprehension, and writing. The motto for the course is “seeking wisdom in community.”
I’m excited and feeling a tad bit worried. We hit the ground running with a class session during orientation week–before classes have officially begun. According to orientation, we are responsible for 90% of the assessment, but only choose 1 of 7 + texts (7 book length texts plus course packet reading). The theme for the course is the tension between freedom and responsibility to community. We are reading
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Summer read; changes every year)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Open text (I picked The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois)
The Rake’s Progress, music by Igor Stravinsky and book by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman accompanied by William Hogarth paintings
Pinjar: The Skeleton and Other Stories by Amrita Pritam
Five Dialogues by Plato.
plus some things in the course reader, like a painting and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
I’m excited because I like the idea of introducing freshman to the wonderful world of a liberal arts education. I’m also excited because I had a somewhat similar course at the Honors College at Arizona State and it was by far one of my favorite courses there. I’mworried because … well, obvious reasons, like engaging students who are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of reading and writing (the course has quite a reputation on campus–it is required for all incoming freshmen and there is some resistance there). Another reason is teaching writing effectively. I learned a lot in orientation from colleagues who’ve done a lot of writing instruction. I’ve done quite a bit myself, but I was never trained to do it.
Has anyone taught a course like this? Do you have any advice for writing instruction, on the particular works, engaging students, etc?
The Henrietta Lacks book is interesting on many straightforward (but still complicated) levels–genetics research, what is human, what are medical ethics, what right do we have to our body parts once they have left us, etc. But it is also interesting because the author is SUCH a privileged white person, invading the lives of poor black people for the sake of her research. She seems to be replicating some of what was done to the Lacks family, in the pursuit of the higher good of science (writing, in this case). I’m pondering how to help students engage with this part of the text.