The Holes In Stanford’s Curriculum

The Holes In Stanford’s Curriculum

A year ago the Review published the very funny “The Most Important Classes Stanford Isn’t Offering,” with suggestions ranging from “Math 51X/CSRE 51X: Multi-Truth Calculus and Liberatory Algebra” to the 1-unit “Wellness 201: Self-care For Activists.” However, this satire points to a real problem: the utter lack of course offerings that Stanford proffers to its students. Searching through the course catalog, it’s clear that there is a real problem with the courses Stanford omits from its curriculum. Though I have always found courses to fill my schedule, I have been disappointed with what classes Stanford isn’t offering us.

An ExploreCourses search for “Bible” only outputs six unique classes, one of which being a film writing class with “series bible” in the description, another being a philosophy class with a TA whose last name is Bible. There are currently no classes at Stanford that offer a comprehensive introduction to the Bible. The closest, “What Didn’t Make the Bible” with Professor Michael Penn is a worthwhile class (though unsurprisingly slanted), but it cannot be a substitute for a thorough introduction to arguably the most important text in history.

In SLE, a survey course of the Western canon offered to about 90 freshmen, the Hebrew Bible and Christian Bible are each afforded a single week. Though Stanford offers multiple courses on political theology and a mostly-Christian “Philosophy of Religion” course, the widespread omission of the Bible from the curriculum is, to be frank, blasphemous.

For students who prefer more modern thought, one would think that the Constitution—the founding document of our country—would be heavily featured in Stanford’s curriculum. But you’d be wrong: only five classes for undergrads feature the Constitution. One of which, “HISTORY 153C: Reconstruction: Adding the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments” is cross listed with the Law School. Two others featuring the word “constitution” use the word in context of “mutual constitution of mind, culture, and society” and “cultural constitution”; another refers to the British constitution.

From these two examples, it’s clear that there is a collapse of the humanities at Stanford, a topic that’s garnered national attention. The fun elective-type classes pervasive amongst Stanford’s humanities departments may be a consequence of Stanford’s majority-STEM student body, but it is not an excuse for the lack of courses that give an actual introduction to the humanities. Stanford offers a multitude of courses on niche humanities topics, but few on the texts that really matter.

Outside of the humanities, course offerings in other departments are politicized. For example, the undergraduate psychology department, ranked the top in the nation, is not offering a class on the psychology of sex or gender. Though the department offers a few social psychology classes, they offer a general overview of how a variety of social groups function within different societies, rather than focusing on the psychological differences between men and women.

The Review has frequently covered how departments across Stanford have prioritized political correctness over the transfer of both traditional and forward-facing knowledge that will help students think critically. This is true for departments across the university. I doubt that President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the Board, or any other person at the top of the pyramid is responsible for this. Rather, this is proof of a broader ethos of censorship throughout the university on what should be taught.

I hope that students will demonstrate real interest in courses that have been pushed aside and ask professors to teach these subjects. Especially in the humanities, which have been shrinking rapidly both at Stanford and around the United States, we students have the ability to take advantage of our small humanities class sizes to tell our professors what we want to learn.

Professors value student input highly. If enough students tell the Religious Studies Department that they want to take a course on the Bible, I do not doubt that it will be offered. Ditto for the History Department and the Constitution. The goal of a university is to educate students; unless we want ideology to determine our coursework, students must take it into our own hands to fill in the holes in Stanford’s curriculum.

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