Culture, Literature, and Society
A and B Period
JULIA COHAN AND DEMPSEY QUINN
What…why…how? Are criminals truly psychotic, or are they victims of poor choices that will forever change their lives? What motivates an individual to commit a violent crime? Is there hope for non-violent criminals to one day return to their families and live “normal lives”? In an attempt to answer these questions, we will explore the topics of psychopathy and criminal justice through a variety of sources, including face-to-face interviews with incarcerated men and women. We will consider models for lowering recidivism and discuss what can be done to aid in criminals’ return to society.
Student enrollment limited to sixth formers.
2%: WOMEN AND ADVERTISING
RUTH FISH AND ELIZABETH SKOGLUND
The average woman is bombarded with 400-600 gender-targeted advertisements on a daily basis. What impact does this have on body image and self-worth in our culture? These messages celebrate youth, beauty, and women as sexual objects. Although these advertisements only emphasize the ideal woman implicitly, the messages are internalized. According to a Dove study, only 2% of women describe themselves as beautiful. 2%! How can we empower our youth and encourage both men and women to fight back against these archaic ideals? This course will examine the frightening messages we as a society receive on a daily basis, and how to challenge this distorted yet all too common perspective.
This is not a course about the New Orleans Saints. Nor is it about the Siena Saints. It’s about the great saints of medieval times that helped shape Christian theology: St. Augustine, St. Anselm, and St. Thomas Aquinas. Each has made his own distinctive mark on the history of the church, on the history of philosophy, and thus on the history of the world. But this course is not a history course either. It’s a philosophy course where we will use primary texts from these three thinkers to explore such topics as the nature of free will, the origin of the universe, and, of course, the existence of God.
Pop music fans argue passionately about which diva dominates: Katy? T-Swift? Beyonce? Lady Gaga? Kei$ha? Pink? Of course, the question of dominant divas deals with many elements, not simply the issue of who sings the best songs. Wrapped up in the whole notion of pop diva are issues of musical genre & influences; media coverage and marketing appeals; and self-presentation, both personal and virtual. Pick a diva, dig a little deeper, and you will come to recognize that any given superstar is a complicated construction, tying together her own musical talents and instincts; the commercial interests of a vast web of involved parties; and the wants and needs of an amorphous segment of the national, and international, population. Our goal is to compare the different strands of creation, distribution and consumption related to two different divas.
DANA ANSELMI AND KELLEY BOGARDUS
Were you academically prepared for Berkshire? Are schools in America preparing kids for the world beyond? Have you ever thought about how much politics dictate school reform? How much emphasis should local government place on education? In order to answer these and other questions, students will collaborate to better understand their educational communities in their home towns, in Sheffield, and at Berkshire. After viewing the documentary Waiting for Superman, hearing from local educators, and discussing key issues confronting our schools, students will address the roles teachers can play and the challenges they face.
THE LITERATURE, ART AND LIFE SKILL OF FLY FISHING
MICHAEL BJURLIN AND DAN SKOGLUND
The greatest American short story ever written, Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River,” has at its center the sport of fly fishing. This class will investigate the rich literary and artistic traditions of fly fishing in America, balancing a rigorous reading program and classroom discussion with fly casting instruction. In addition to Hemingway’s masterpiece, Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It will be an important part of the class’s work. This course promises to be quite a catch!
Begun in 1984, TED is a non-profit that brings together professionals from the fields of technology, entertainment, and design. They are best known for their TED talks, which are all readily available on the internet. TED’s website says they are “devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading,” and oftentimes those ideas are pertinent to our everyday lives, so what better place to watch, discuss, and make TED videos than in a Pro Vita classroom?!?! This class will focus on how and why these talks are successful: what does the speaker use for content? What makes an interesting subject? How does a speaker present their information and insight? Why are some more successful than others in communicating their ideas? After pondering these questions and others, we’ll work on our own TED videos, and hopefully share some ideas worth spreading with our community here at Berkshire.
JENNIFER ANDDERSON AND DONALD ANSELMI
Undoubtedly, there is a reason that one-liners from Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Buehler’s Day Off will all be mainstays in our culture for years to come. Class, gender, family dynamics, teenage angst, and music are the pillars of film director John Hughes appeal. In this course, students will be exposed to the pop culture phenomena of his movies, their effect on American teens and parents of the time, and explore the commonalities and differences in the teen culture of today. We will finish the course creating our own modern interpretation of several of Hughes most famous scenes.
From silent, physical genius of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin to the brutal and bruising satire of contemporary directors like Armando Iannucci, the Cohen brothers, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone, comedy has always been an important cornerstone of Hollywood films. In this course, we will screen classic comic films (and scenes from films) across nearly one hundred years of cinema history. If Henri Bergson was right that “there is no joke but at someone’s expense,” then no jokes are entirely innocent, but to what purpose, and by what techniques, do filmmakers make us laugh? We will explore many of the sub-genres of comedy, engaging our brains as we hold our guts. This course will produce a week of uncontrollable laughter, guaranteed.
After an historical overview, we will consider three different linguistic/cultural heritages in the Caribbean: Spanish, French and English. For each island grouping, we will read selected literary texts; listen to an eclectic musical playlist; watch contemporary videos; and interview local residents with personal connections to these various nations. As a culminating project, we will plan a collaborative “Island Festival,” encompassing, music, food and dance of the Caribbean.
CHRISTINE FITZGERALD AND HEIDI WOODWORTH
Why do we kill? In this course, we will use The Hunger Games as a foundation for our study of what drives us to kill and how are we affected by these actions, along with why we are so intrigued by atrocity. To supplement the book and movie, we will take a multimedia approach to relating these themes present in The Hunger Games to both historic and current events. We will explore topics ranging from the gladiators of Ancient Rome to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. At the conclusion of the course, students will no longer see The Hunger Games as simply a bestselling novel and blockbuster film, but also as a greater dialogue about the culture in which we live. Students should be familiar with both the book and movie.
THE NEXT DR. SEUSS
BRANDI DAHARI and EMILY WARNER
From Grimm’s fairy tales to Dr. Seuss, what books have the ability to captivate a preschooler as well as an adult? How are these stories developed? This class will take a look at books specifically written for preschool children. Students will examine the writing process and how reading these stories can make them come to life. They will then write their own picture book and read it to our youngest students on campus at Undermountain Day Care.
SOCIAL MEDIA & MARKETING IN THE DIGITAL AGE
NINA BJURLIN AND RUTHIE FISH
Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Spotify, Tumblr, Flickr, and on and on indefinitely. Accessible, ubiquitous, and ever evolving, social media is the way we communicate today. With over 1 billion users, if Facebook were a country, it’d be the third largest in the world. No wonder corporations have spent billions of dollars infiltrating the social media scene. In this class students will use social media including blogs, photography, podcasts and video, to produce an online marketing campaign for a new client: Pro Vita Winter Session. Beginning with the basic principles of marketing, students will discover how these strategies have been adapted to the social media sphere while gaining firsthand experience crafting a mini marketing campaign designed for the digital age.
CHRISTIAN WILLIAMS AND JACOB EPSTEIN
Writers drive the creative process in scripted television. This class will provide an introduction to how writers create and pitch their ideas, how those ideas become a pilot script and how a script must be considered as part of a larger whole of a series. Students will come away with a collaborative script and insight into the professional writing process for television. They will learn how to bring a creative idea into a very competitive professional business and learn to work and communicate as a team. The message and the creative process of the writer will be examined through all phases.