Hampshire College: Diversity without Depth?

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

As we noted in a previous post, when Hampshire College became the first institution of higher learning in the United States to shun SAT scores as an admissions requirement, the school’s president waxed rhapsodic about the diversity that the change engendered.

hampshire college logo

As it happens, Hampshire’s course catalogue is also rather diverse. Here is a sampling:

  • The Emergence of Literacy;
  • Philosophy of Education;
  • Intro to Tabletop Game Design;
  • Apprenticeship in Animal Communication Research;
  • The Social Psychology of Building Peace in the Context of Violent Intergroup Conflict;
  • Women in Game Programming;
  • Animal Behavior Theory;
  • Critical Pedagogy of Place: A Tool for Environmental Action and Social Change;
  • Pixelbending: Under the Hood of Modern Filmmaking;
  • Words, Faces and Other Minds; and
  • Research Seminar in Linguistics and Philosophy: Performative Utterances;

And that’s just in the Cognitive Sciences. Here’s what the Humanities has to offer:

  • Introduction to Painting on Paper, Board, Canvas, and Wall;
  • The Anatomy of Pictures;
  • Dancing Modern I;
  • The Language of Architecture;
  • The Politics of Popular Culture;
  • Writing from the Diaspora: Readings in Contemporary Women’s Fiction;
  • Color Foundations in Paint and Pixels: The Sun’s Not Yellow It’s Chicken;
  • Sex, Science, and the Victorian Body;
  • Making an Argument that Matters; and
  • Feminist Philosophy: the Mysterious, the Playful, the Funny, the Useless, the Intimate, and the Indifferent

No Responses

  1. emily

    October 18, 2015 4:56 pm

    It’s true, Hampshire has a tradition of quirky course titles. For instance, my Hampshire transcript includes a creative writing class titled “The Axe and the Sewing Machine.” I’ll never know quite how to explain that one. But that class was uniquely excellent– it was taught by an amazing poet, Aracelis Girmay, who has a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. There’s no reason to assume these courses lack depth.

    More importantly: this article (?) ignores that Hampshire was founded by the other members of the Five College Consortium – Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and UMass – as a hub of experimental education to engage with the four other colleges. It was never meant to stand on its own. Hampshire students all take classes in the Consortium, balancing out more focused classes at Hampshire with more traditional classes in the other colleges.


    October 27, 2015 12:19 pm

    What about the Latent Lesbianism in Moby Dick?

    Seriously, the cost of a college education is enough for us to ask what we get for our enormous investment in time and dollars. So what value do these courses add to that pursuit?

    No Useful Social Product

    “ . . . the increasingly creedal character of the social sciences and humanities has to be reckoned a partial failure for the scientific enterprise in academe. During the earlier part of the twentieth century many of the university’s leading lights saw humane studies as on their way toward incorporation within science. In fact, the framers of American Association of University Professors (AAUP) founding document, its 1915 Declaration of Principles, almost all social scientists or humanists, hinged their case for academic freedom squarely on faculty adherence to science-like practice.

    A … factor lies in the inability of these domains to produce a
    useful social product in anything like the amounts generated by the study of nature.

    “Absent the prestige, support, and self-confidence that such social product confers, the humanities and social sciences have sought them instead through affiliation with what they believe to be deserving movements and causes, each in need of intellectual justification and defense. And, of course, the loss of scientific temper also reflects the dual fact/value quality of the
    questions with which humane scholarship deals. …”

    “More Crises Than One”
    Stephen H. Balch

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