Syllabus for "Histories and Futures of Humanistic Education: Culture and Crisis, Books and MOOCs"

Syllabus for "Histories and Futures of Humanistic Education: Culture and Crisis, Books and MOOCs"

Comp Lit 265

Histories and Futures of Humanistic Education: Culture and Crisis, Books and MOOCs

W 1-4 pm

David Palumbo-Liu


One of the most hotly debated topics today is online education.  Whatever your opinion, there is no doubt that it is and will continue to shape education in a profound way.  This course looks at, and debates, certain features of online education specifically as they relate to the humanities and notions of engaged critical learning.

It is designed as a collaborative course.  We will work in tandem with Professor Cathy’s Davidson’s course at Duke, “The History and Future of High Education,” and Professor Christopher Newfield’s course at UC Santa Barbara, “Literature, College, Creativity, Corporation. “ We will have four Google Hangouts with these classes, and use other forums to interact with them.  Each campus will use a slightly different syllabus, linked to each instructor’s particular angle into this general subject, but we will also have many readings and exercises in common.  We see this as a critical moment in education, and connect this topic to its historical, cultural, political, and ethical implications.

This course at Stanford concentrates on specific moments in history where the idea of education—what education is, for whom is it aimed, and with what values is it endowed—come into crisis.

We will look at early discussions about education and culture (Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy) and then works through a key moment in the mid-twentieth century whose premises still have influence—the famous Two Cultures (humanities, sciences) debate.  We next delve into the radical responses to educational reform in France and the US in the late 1960s, and finally consider the changing state of funding, value, and cultural critique in the late twentieth and early-twenty-first century.

In particular we examine the idea of education as a personal, collective, and intensely intellectual endeavor that is shaped by and shapes societies.  We focus specifically on the idea of the “public good” and the relation between education and a democratic society.

This is a first-time, experimental course that will rely heavily on student input, participation, invention, and dialog face-to-face and collaboration with students at Duke, UC Santa Barbara, and elsewhere.  It meets once a week for three hours.



Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (selections)

“Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in a Digital Age”:

Cathy Davidson, Now You See It!

Davidson, “How A Class Becomes a Community”:

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go.

H. Giroux, Teachers as Intellectuals

Susan S. Giroux. Between Race and Reason: Violence, Intellectual Responsibility and the University to Come

Christopher Newfield, Unmaking the Public University

Palumbo-Liu, The Deliverance of Others (Introduction, Chapter on Never Let Me Go)

Selections from Representations (Fall 2011: “The Humanities and the Crisis of the Public University”)

Howard Rheingold, Net Smart

The “Nanterre Manifesto”

The “Port Huron Statement”

K Ross, May ’68 and Its After-lives

Snow-Leavis debate on the “Two Cultures”

Materials on “Pre-Texts” (see



Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l’an 2000 (Jonah, who will be 25 in the year 2000).  dir Tanner.

Entre les murs (The Class).  Dir. Cantet


Schedule (Hangout are underlined)

1/8      Intros. Teams.  Choose biblio on MOOCs, join Fb group.  Decide on articles to        read in teams.

1/15    Arnold, Leavis-Snow, MOOCs

[1/22]Readings, Newfield readings

1/29    Freire, Girouxs

[2/5]    Davidson, Now You See It; How a Class Becomes a Community; “Rights and Principles”

2/12    Ross on ’68, Nanterre, Port Huron, “Jonas” (watch in class)

2/19    Watch “Entre les Murs,” Discussion

[2/26]  P-L Intro, Chapter on Never Let Me Go, Never Let Me Go

[3/5]   Net Smart, Pre-Texts.  Hangout with our partner classes as well as Prof. Howard Rheingold and Pre-Texts originator Prof. Doris Sommer.

[3/12]  Closing--Synthesis


1 comment

A good link for the Port Huron reference is