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January 16, 2019 |  4 min read

We received this 1996 Wesleyan University syllabus as a remembrance of the instructor by a former student. It’s January’s syllabus of the month.

Fall 1996
Col/Hum 104

Teachers and Their Teachings: From Socrates to Foucault

Howard Bernstein
X 2323 Butterfield C313, Office hours, T, Th 4-5 and by Appt

General description: This course is about teachers and students, their relationships, and some powerful pedagogical ideas; it is also about maturation and longing, power and subordination, deception and self-deception, transference and counter-transference. We will be asking questions about what it means to “educate,” to take responsibility for the shaping of another soul, to transmit culture, to confront and to provoke, and perhaps, also, to insinuate, manipulate, and judge. What is it that students alternatively crave and fear in the educative process? Why do teachers presume to teach when the opportunities to do otherwise are often more glitteringly attractive? Our task is to examine different, and sometimes discordant, models of teaching and learning from classical antiquity virtually to the present. As little as possible will be presupposed or assumed to be self-evident, including the almost sacrosanct notion that “education” (liberal or illiberal) is a good thing for which there is some sort of intrinsic “need.”

Major readings in order of appearance (mostly):

David Mamet, Oleanna

Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

Plato, the Republic, Apology

Selections from the Synoptic Gospels, and the Pauline Epistles.

Letters of Abelard and Heloise

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

John Holt, Freedom and Beyond

(Note: there will also be short supplementary readings bound together in a packet.)

Course Calendar

5 September: Introductions and housekeeping. What does a “teacher ” do?

10 Sept: READ: David Mamet, Oleanna.

12, 17 Sept: READ: Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind pp. 19-23, 25- 43, 62-7, 243-5, 264(top)-284, 380-2. (Here we are especially interested in Bloom’s evocation of the Socratic image in the cause of educational traditionalism. Bloom can be infuriating, but that may well be the point, so be patient).

19, 24, 26 Sept: READ: Plato, Republic, Books III, IV, VI , VII, IX. (Note: Bk VII contains the famous “Simile of the Cave” and Plato/Socrates’s vivid representation of the educative process as the “turning around” of the soul.

1 Oct: READ: Plato, Apology (The Last Days of Socrates) in Laser Packet of course readings.

8 Oct: READ: Biblical Selections in course reader. Read these in order beginning with the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. (Our special interest here is in Jesus as charismatic teacher and also, inevitably, in the message).

Don’t forget the Pheme Perkins stuff in Read as well.

10 Oct: READ: Letters of Abelard and Heloise, pp. 9-106.

15 Oct: READ; Letters, pp. 109-179.

17, 22 Oct: READ: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, Book I, II

_22   _October                Mid-Term Due In Class

29 Oct., 5 Nov: READ Rousseau, Bk III, IV   (You may omit pp. 266-313 which happens to be the celebrated “Confession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar”)

7, 12 Nov:  READ: Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, pp. 3-72, 135-194. There is also introductory material in the Sir Speedy packet under the heading The Foucault Reader. (Note: You may well be wondering at the outset what all this stuff on torture and punishment has to do with teaching and education. Believe me, the connection will clarify itself in time).

14, 19, 21 Nov: READ: Foucault, pp. 195-end, and then, for contrast, Bloom, pp. 47-61, 68-137 , 313-356.

26 Nov. 3 December: READ: Holt, Freedom and Beyond.

5 Dec: David Mamet’s Movie version of Oleanna

10 Dec: Review and retrospective.


12 DECEMBER Housekeeping : There are two formal papers required for this course, one at mid­ term and the other as a final project. These will be approximately 6-8 typed pages in length. Students are also required to keep and submit a weekly journal about which I will have more to say in class. Participation in a discussion course such as this is also important. From to time, there will be informal lectures, but without any set pattern, and there will always be occasion for free for all question and answer sessions

October 8, 2018 |  One min read

We always like to learn more about how the OSP is being used, and sometimes this yields an unexpected treat.  Here’s a short segment from a Japanese quiz show called ‘Wow! Surprising Japan,’ in which foreigners are quizzed about their knowledge of Japan.  The segment discusses novelist Souseki Natsume, who comes in 11th in some sort of power ranking of famous Japanese people.  Here, the OSP is used as an authority for what foreigners might know about Japan.  According to our data, Natsume’s Kokoro is assigned with some frequency.  Thanks, Daisuke!

May 22, 2018 |  One min read

The next version of the OSP dataset is beginning to take shape.  It will have roughly 6 million syllabi, covering around 6000 institutions around the world.  All the stats and breakdowns will bounce around as we refine the classifiers, decide which fields to consolidate, and so on, but here are a couple interesting initial views:

And a breakdown by field:

February 16, 2018 |  5 min read

We’re on a melancholic run for the winter months.  February’s honoree is “The Professor of Longing” by Jill Talbot.

243: The Professor of Longing

Dr. Jill Talbot
Contact: | 426-7060
Office: LA 102 C (a room I share with a broken shelf and three people I never see)
Office Hours: Before and After Class and once in a booth in the Hyde Park Bar & Grill

Course Description: This course is about failed attempts. It’s about me standing in an office two states and two months ago handing over a letter declaring that I was leaving academia indefinitely. It’s about being on the road—Utah, Idaho, Montana—climbing north before having to turn around, scramble south. It’s about the trying months of summer and ending up in a circumstance not on any map. It’s about Boise instead of Missoula, about adjustments instead of adventure, about impediments edging out impulse, bi-monthly paychecks that can’t cover rent and daycare, my last cigarette. It will be writing in a cramped corner on a plastic tv tray in a foldout chair bought at a thrift store. By the end of the semester, the focus will be two am phone calls and bad checks. For the final, look for a bookcase and a loveseat in a living room with the front door left wide open, my four-year-old daughter’s favorite polka-dotted vest forgotten on the kitchen counter.

Texts: We’re not going to read anything beyond my own proclivities. We’ll discuss stories, essays, and poems that remind me of my most recent misgivings, the lingerings I’m unable to yield, the words underlining my past. Our study will include recurring images, my own, of course, as well as the themes of my disposition. The text in this class is me.

Attendance: It’s strange to think I’m even here. Years from now, I will feel as these weeks were nothing more than an interruption, a curve in the story’s road.

Disclaimer: While these aren’t the texts I really used that semester, they most accurately reflect who I was during those weeks when I kept my eyes to the sidewalk.


August 22


Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, Selections

Whitman has many famous lines about celebrating himself and containing multitudes and taking to the open road, sounding his barbaric yawp, yet stylistically, he used a device called “cataloging.” A long list. Write that down. It’s important, because we all catalog, make long lists of lovers, of things to pack, pros and cons, items at the drugstore. Some catalogs come with details, like wine lists. Some in a shorthand no one but us can read, and if enough time goes by, neither can we, as we pull a forgotten slip of paper from the bottom of a purse or a pocket and stare at a mystery.

Dickinson used dashes in her lines, random capitalization, difficult to decipher punctuation. She wasn’t consistent in her usage, and often her poems were in unfinished forms. But it’s the dashes that draw me, so we’ll focus on those. Sometimes they appear at the end of a line, others in the middle, interruptions. Still, other poems are words alone, no dashes at all. Emphasis? A writer’s pen carrying over to the next word, down the line? Never intended as part of the prosody at all, like a pause in a conversation misinterpreted as silence or disagreement when it’s only search for the right words? Or are they like bridges crossing a question?

We’ll be seeing these elements throughout the semester: catalogs of loss, of what lies between or is left to the end, the choices too difficult to decipher.

I’ll tell you up front: he left. So let’s look at an opening line of Dickinson’s: “You left me, sweet, two legacies—”
And he did, one, the legacy of our years together that began with the Eagle River and a half moon. The other, the sweetest legacy, our daughter, who, I suppose, he never saw as part of his prosody. That dash—his disappearance. And so, to the Whitmanesque open road he went, “afoot and lighthearted,” while, me? My lines are a bit further down: “I carry my old delicious burdens . . . . I carry them with me where I go/I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them.”

The delicious burdens I bear because no state, not this one or the last three I’ve lived in can trace a line underneath Kenny and make him pay child support. He’s the dash that keeps dashing, a catalog of unanswered phone calls.

The rest is at Diagram.

January 24, 2018 |  2 min read

This month’s honoree is:


Instructor: Kevin Temple
Office hours: By text message

Course Description

There is no such thing as the Philosophy of Adjuncting; but rest assured, this course is authentic, for I am being deliriously underpaid to teach it. As the “instructor of record,” I have made the syllabus distinctly my own because that tiny gasp of freedom is to tenure what adjunct pay is to an actual salary. What have I put on it? Nothing of use. It is self-defeating, for that is what a philosophy of adjuncting must be.


Week 1: Marx on alienation

My adjunct friend says, “The irony of adjuncting is being alienated labor while teaching future alienated laborers about Alienated Labor.” Read the Alienated Labor section of Marx’s “Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts.” Alienation happens in a bunch of ways; for example, when instead of doing something great on your own terms, an arbitrarily powerful person forces you to do it his way. He ruins what you do by breaking it down into a series of distinct tasks, automating whatever can be automated, measuring how long each remaining task takes, and then paying you as little as possible per task. That’s how administrators created adjuncting. It’s almost like they’ve read Marx.

Week 2: Adorno saw it coming

We discuss the “culture industry.” Universities as a whole have what Adorno called a “culture monopoly.” As such, he says, “They cannot afford to neglect their appeasement of the real holders of power if their sphere of activity in mass society … is not to undergo a series of purges.” Well, guess what? The purges happened anyway. This is why we commute.

Continued at Adjunct Commuter Weekly…