Faculty Lectures

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    The New Golden Age: Citizenship Education and the Liberal Arts
    (Swarthmore College, 2015-03-03) Berger, Ben, 1968-
    Professors, pundits, politicians, and (college) presidents often insist that schools, including colleges, should produce better citizens. But that well-meaning insistence may be led by fuzzy thinking. Too often, proponents of civic or citizenship education do not think through very clearly what they mean by “civic” or “citizenship,” nor reflect adequately on what education can and should actually “produce.” In this short talk Professor Berger will try to clarify our concepts, thinking with and against conflicting commentators such as Martha Nussbaum and Stanley Fish. When we understand citizenship as a broad and evolving concept, we see that it resides not just in a few departments but across the liberal arts curriculum: humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. And when we understand higher education as equipping students with capacities and capabilities rather than “producing” some known end -- whether virtuous citizens or productive businesspeople -- we see that the liberal arts could (with our active stewardship) preside over citizenship education in far more meaningful ways than ever before.
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    The Perils of Imagination: Why Historians Don't Like Counterfactuals
    (Swarthmore College, 2015-02-10) Burke, Timothy, 1964-
    Counterfactuals are studies of might-have-beens, events that could have happened. Counterfactual thinking has an important place in human cognition and behavior and is accordingly studied by some psychologists. There are other academic disciplines like philosophy that also see counterfactuals as an important legitimate area of inquiry. Historians, however, have often viewed counterfactuals with wariness at best, contempt at worst. That is, when they think about them at all. Tim Burke will talk about why he nevertheless finds it useful to teach a course on counterfactual history and describe the current state of play in the debate among historians and other social scientists about "might-have-beens." Among other points, he hopes to show how the discussion of counterfactuals illustrates history's uneasy location in the borderlands between the social sciences and the humanities.
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    Economics and the Future of Elite Colleges
    (Swarthmore College, 2014-11-11) Kuperberg, Mark, 1950-
    While economists are not that good at forecasting, it is, nevertheless, useful to think about what economics has to say about our future. Are elite colleges pricing themselves out of the market? Will for profit colleges and universities eat our lunch? Will Massive Open On-Line Courses (MOOCs) take over the world? How can we charge $60,000 a year for something MOOCs are giving away for free?
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    Love Against Substitution: Politics and Theology in the Conjugal Narrative of Paradise Lost
    (Swarthmore College, 2014-11-01) Song, Eric B., 1979-
    In Paradise Lost, John Milton transforms the stuff of epic poetry: conjugal love is described as more heroic than valor or conquest. Influential literary histories have cited Milton's poem as a cultural innovation that anticipates the rise of the English novel--a genre that comes to center upon domesticity and married life. This talk returns to this familiar narrative to argue that we've missed something hidden in plain sight: what it means for marriage to have been defined as the love for an absolutely irreplaceable object. This definition might be so familiar now that it seems merely commonsensical despite the widespread fact of remarriage after death or divorce. Yet in seventeenth-century England, this talk argues, the literary trend of defining marriage around a unique love took hold for particular reasons. Namely, this definition put emotional pressure on the very idea that humans are replaceable and that marriage is the proper way to produce legitimate substitutes. This resistance to substitution tests not only the practical dimensions of hereditary monarchy--in which heirs should replace monarchs seamlessly upon death--but also on the religious underpinnings of this political system. John Milton had, earlier in his life and career, taken part in the revolution that temporarily did away with monarchy in England. This talk shows how Paradise Lost advances Milton's political and religious thought through its conjugal narrative; this epic experiment would, in turn, help to shape how future generations have come to think of the basic meaning of marriage and of love.
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    "Why?" Some Puzzles of Motivation
    (Swarthmore College, 2014-10-07) Schwartz, Barry, 1946-
    "Why?" Some Puzzles of Motivation -- It is only logical that if people already have one reason to do something, and you give them a second reason to do that thing, their commitment will be greater, their effort will be more sustained, and their performance will be more outstanding. Thus, for example, a teacher who is motivated to inspire students will be even more motivated if a performance bonus is added to the mix. Logical, perhaps; psychological, no. Barry Schwartz will review evidence that different types of motives sometimes compete, not sum, even when all the motives seem to be pushing in the same direction. Recent results from a fifteen-year study of West Point cadets confirm that more motives can produce worse results.