A few months ago, a few friends and I watched the first launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. Half of us were transfixed. The other half thought we were wasting our time. The difference between the two camps usually comes down to whether space exploration itself is a waste of time. The first looks to space and sees nothing, but the second looks up and sees endless possibility.
The historical annals are replete with narratives of student heroism. The global uprising of 1968 which challenged capitalism, American imperialism, and contemporary gender and sexual norms was foremost a revolt of students. In France the memory of May 1968 endures as a moment when university students almost created a revolution while, in the States, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) flourished, mobilizing hundreds of thousands at the height of anti-Vietnam protests. But tales of student activist prowess are not limited to the New Left of 1968. The two most prominent revolts against Soviet authority – the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and Prague Spring – very prominently featured students. Even Stanford has an illustrious history of student protest, having played an important role in the movement to divest from Apartheid South Africa in the late 1970s. At their most valiant, students have articulated nuanced and insightful politics, and have led national, and even global, insurrectionary movements.
Whether you’re a physics major who needs to fulfil a couple of WAYS requirements, or a sociology and anthropology double major looking for an inspiring course, the Sphere has you covered. Our writers have gathered six of the most fascinating and unusual courses on offer Spring quarter.
Continue reading “Six Must-Take Humanities Classes Spring Quarter”
When I first came to Stanford, I had high hopes for the diverse intellectual atmosphere I would encounter here. And although I have met some incredibly bright and interesting people, I feel we have lost the art of discussion around campus. Conversations lack intellectual idealism and tend to narrow viewpoints to simple binaries, leaving little room for nuance. We judge ideas solely on their practicality, and have a tendency to dismiss as out of hand controversial ideologies, decreasing our ability to effectively evaluate ideas, especially those ideas we disagree with. To put it bluntly, we seek comfort, not intellectual rigor, from our discussions both inside and outside the classroom. But in so doing, we leave our opinions unchallenged, and with it, the ability to both defend and criticize our views – a tool we cannot afford to lose at a university.
In recent years, right-wing student groups and publications have portrayed themselves as the sole bastions of free speech against barbarous hordes of social justice warriors. It is undeniable that there exists a dearth of meaningless discourse on liberal campuses. Yet the right-wing cause of free speech has been dangerous and hypocritical; conservative students have championed the right to polemicize demagogically and thoughtlessly rather than to engage in impactful discussion. Most troublingly, the campus Right across America has enabled and legitimized a terrifying alt-right in their impulsive and self-righteous pursuit of free speech. It is high time for the Left to recapture the cause of free speech.
Universities across America are in a state of acute intellectual decay. Replacing a millenia-old tradition of discussion and debate, a stifling liberal consensus now dominates many campuses. Administrators often succumb to student pressure to disinvite unpopular speakers, while those few who do make it to campus are often shouted down or attacked. In response, some right-wing students have resorted to inviting speakers that are needlessly demagogic, making serious discussion even more difficult. Informed and civil debates are sadly rare on college campuses.
Humanities courses should be integral to the university experience of almost any Stanford student. So whether you’re trying to fulfil WAYS requirements or expanding your intellectual horizons, here are five essential humanities classes to take this quarter.
Stanford remains undecided on whether it should remove the name Serra on various Campus buildings and monuments. Junipero Serra was an eighteenth century missionary who founded the California Mission System and forced indigenous peoples to convert to Christianity. And earlier this month, President Marc Tessier Lavigne announced that two separate communities would deliberate on whether to retain Serra’s name.
Yesterday, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell released a statement entitled ‘Advancing Free Speech and Inclusion.’ Their defence of free speech was balanced, thoughtful and incisive. Indeed, it is difficult to take exception to the idea that ‘Freedom of inquiry and the free expression of ideas are fundamental to the mission of the university.’ And more importantly, the statement recognizes that the university experience encompasses so much more than the classroom. As the President and Provost wrote, ‘our strength as a university derives from our diversity.’ This diversity cannot be limited to nationality, race and gender. It must also include political and experiential diversity, meaning right and left wing thought that lies outside the narrow bounds of the Stanford liberal consensus.
President Trump’s 2016 election victory must rank as one of the most significant and impressive political movements of the past half-century. This momentous election has so many diverse meanings; the bankruptcy of the Democratic Party in its current liberal, identity politics guise; the rise of the specter of white nationalism; the decline of American liberal democracy amidst the broader demise of the Western world order that has governed so autocratically for the past few centuries.