Columbia anthropology class about Occupy Wall Street

I’m sure this new anthropology class at Columbia about Occupy Wall Street will get a lot of attention:

Columbia University will offer a new course for upperclassmen and grad students next semester. An Occupy Wall Street class will send students into the field and will be taught by Dr. Hannah Appel, a veteran of the Occupy movement.

The course begins next semester and will be divided between class work at Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus and fieldwork that will require students to become involved with the Occupy movement outside of the classroom…

Appel is a staunch defender of the Occupy movement, in her blog she said that, ““it is important to push back against the rhetoric of ‘disorganization’ or ‘a movement without a message’ coming from left, right and center.”

Appel told the New York Post that while her involvement with the movement will color the way she teaches it will not prevent her from being an objective teacher.

This class will receive criticism for three reasons:

1. The professor has been involved with the movement.

2. It will draw attention from conservatives who will argue that liberals are continuing to use college classes to indoctrinate America’s youths.

3. People will see it as a waste of time and money as this expensive college should be teaching “useful” things. (This is similar to criticism about classes about Jay-Z or Lady Gaga.)

At the same time, the class has a number of advantages:

1. The professor may be connected to the movement but it is a unique opportunity for students to have an entry point into this group. I would bet the professor could get the students unique access to certain people or events that would lead to a better class experience.

2. The class addresses an important current phenomena. Whether you agree with the purposes of the movement or not, it is something worthy of study to understand why and how it developed and whether it will lead to change. How many people want to sit in a class about dry material when they could be learning about something happening right outside?

3. This is a chance for students to gain research experience in a unique setting. Aren’t colleges pushing research experiences for students?

From my point of view: I think a key here is that students develop their critical thinking and research skills in the course. This does not necessarily mean agreeing with the Occupy Wall Street movement but students should leave the course with a better understanding of the issues, the protestors, and how to do research.

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