It is that time of the year again. As March brings unwarranted hopes for a warm respite from Maine’s record-setting winter temperatures, the Registrar’s Office reminds us to sign up for fall classes. I always enjoy crafting my course schedule. But there is more to the process than casually lingering by our advisor’s office, scrolling through Garnet Gateway, and demonstrating our commitment to a perfect GPA by crashing Rate My Professor. Course registration is the ultimate exercise of our role as students: an opportunity to mull over our career goals and pursue our intellectual passions. I must confess every sign-up season leaves me yearning for more. Even as Bates consistently provides a rich menu of academic offerings, there is always that one class I wish I could take… that one issue area I have always dreamed of exploring further… that one subject that would allow me to draw from multiple disciplines. So I’ve taken it upon myself to create a list of courses I think our professors should consider teaching: ASTR 139: Exoplanets and the Future of Humanity. Following the launch of NASA’s Kepler telescope in 2009, scientists have identified over 50 exoplanets within the goldilocks zone: that is, neither too close nor too far from their star to sustain liquid water and atmosphere. According to an MIT professor Sara Seager, “We will [soon] be able to take children to a dark sky, point to a star, and say ‘that star has a planet with signs of life.’” Some researchers find an even greater reason of optimism in our neighboring Mars and Jupiter’s moon, Europa, claiming that a revolutionary announcement about life beyond earth is just a few decades away. Conclusive evidence of extraterrestrial beings, even at the molecular level, portends for social consequences of astronomical proportions. While ASTR 139 would predominantly be a science class – deconstructing the wobble detection method, calculation of celestial distances in light years, and planet-hunters’ interest in red dwarves – it would also turn to psychology, religious studies, and philosophy to ponder a variety of questions. How does the discovery of other habitable worlds shift our perception of earth as the center of the universe? Will finding life beyond our native planet amount to the ultimate theological conundrum?
ENG 211: The World of Accents. Per the old saying, “the only way not to have an accent is not to speak.” As a geographically diverse institution, Bates is teeming with both regional and global sounds. Students would dive into classical linguistics to explain how accents form, why most adults are good at hearing foreign accents but bad at losing their native ones, and how en masse presence of television sets in the nation’s households led to the evolution of a standard American accent in the 1940s. The second half of the course would commit to examining how accents affect our perceptions of national origin, race, socio-economic class, and intelligence.
PLTC 305: CapSTONE Seminar on the Politics of Marijuana Legalization. The tide of marijuana legalization is sweeping the nation, bringing joy to herb enthusiasts and case studies in American federalism to scholars of politics. The course would evaluate how state legislatures, ballot initiatives, and federal regulations interact on different cannabis-related issues. Special attention would be given to America’s judicial and penal systems, because even as weed knows only one color, the laws surrounding its consumption disproportionately affect African American and Hispanic communities. In light of the recent nationwide legalization of marijuana in Canada, as well as long-standing commercial practices of several Western European countries, there might even be a lecture or two in comparative government. Instead of a traditional discussion format characteristic to Bates seminars, students would play the roles of interest groups, politicians, and researchers to explore the world of policy-making. And should no Bates classroom be large enough to handle record-high (pun intended) enrollment in the course, Mount David is always an option.