CULTURE, LITERATURE, AND SOCIETY

A AND B PERIOD COURSES

LET ME IN, LET ME OUT

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.

A PERIOD COURSES

ALLEMANDE LEFT: GERMAN LANGUAGE AND KULTUR

CLIVE DAVIS, CHRIS KREKE ’15, AND EMMI GRAEBNER ’14
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? While a contingent of Berkshire students travels to Germany this Pro Vita, in this class we will engage in a very different immersion opportunity right here on campus. Students will learn the beginnings of conversational German, increase their vocabulary, and have an introduction to German culture and the arts. Each day, students will learn a set of conversational skills, work on pronunciation, and study an aspect of German society and culture and its impact on the world. From Karneval and Oktoberfest to the Easter Bunny, we will examine the impact of German society has had on many current Western traditions. Finally, we will Skype with our counterparts abroad to share and compare impressions and experiences.

B! TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY

CENCY MIDDLETON AND BRITT PLANTE
The average woman is bombarded with 400-600 gender-targeted advertisements on a daily basis. 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 messages that we receive on a daily basis from romantic comedies to Super Bowl advertisements, and explore how to challenge this distorted yet all too common perspective.

BASEBALL: THE AMERICAN NARRATIVE

DAVE OLSON
Known as America’s pastime, baseball has provided entertainment and excitement for fans for well over a century. While it is easily recognized as an enjoyable summertime diversion, what often goes overlooked is the way in which the sport so accurately reflects, and often predicts, the cultural tenor of the country where it originated. From historic figures and events like the Chicago “Black” Sox scandal, Jackie Robinson and desegregation, to the emergence of steroid use, and the unionization of baseball, this course will examine the multitude of ways in which every spring, summer and fall baseball tells the ongoing story of America.

BON APPÉTIT!: JULIA CHILD’S LIFE IN FRANCE

ANNA BARTER
Bon appétit! Julia Child made these words famous in her PBS specials that taught Americans about French culture and cuisine. Whether she was flipping an omelet or boning a duck, she had a way of making her audience fall in love with not only her food but also with her. In this course, we will study Julia Child’s life as well as the influence she has had on both sides of the Atlantic. We will read excerpts of her memoir
My Life in France and discuss its film adaptation, Julie & Julia. The course will culminate with a day in the kitchen in honor of Julia Child and her most famous recipes.

DESCARTES’ MEDITATIONS

CLAY SPLAWN
Descartes’ work signifies a critical turning point in the history of thought. He has been dubbed the “Father of Modern Philosophy.” Why? What was significant about Descartes? More importantly, what remains significant in the 21
st century? We will investigate the philosophy of Descartes by reading his Meditations on First Philosophy, a short but profound work that, while imminently readable, contains some of the most famous arguments in the history of philosophy.

THE LITERATURE, ART AND LIFE SKILL OF FLY FISHING

MICHAEL BJURLIN AND JOHN WEST
Arguably 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!

MURDER, MEDIA, AND THE MOCKINGJAY

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 humans 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 STAR WARS LEGACY

KEVAN BOWLER AND STUART MILLER ’97
The
Star Wars saga is the third highest grossing film series ever. What began in 1977 as a simple tale of good versus evil eventually became a world-wide phenomenon. The idea for these movies was conceived by George Lucas in the 1970s, a time of political upheaval and social unrest related to high oil prices, the Vietnam War, drug use, and the Nixon resignation. This class will study Star Wars: Episodes IV, V, and VI and compare the movies to themes found in literature, mythology, religion, politics and history.

TED TALK

JENNIFER ANDERSON
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 his or her 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 share some ideas worth spreading within our community here at Berkshire.

B PERIOD COURSES

BERKSHIRE’S KINGS OF STAND-UP

DAVE OLSON
So you think you’re funny? Prove it over Pro Vita week in this course that will look at the art of stand-up comedy. Humor has been a part of performances for ages, but relatively recently in history it has developed into an art form of its own. We will look at many of the great comedians of the past century, study the techniques they use, and develop our own stand-up acts. Students will foster their public speaking skills and exercise a great deal of creativity in the process. The best acts may be shared with the School on Saturday morning. No matter what, this class is sure to leave you rolling in the aisle.

BURKAS TO BIKINIS: THE POLITICS OF DRESS

LISSA MCGOVERN
Do clothes make the person? What does what you wear say about who you are? Or does your outfit 
“say” anything about you? We will discover the world of clothes and clothes of the world from Burkas to bikinis. Where are your clothes made? How does fashion come into our shopping cart? After delving into our own closets and learning more about the psychology behind dress, we’ll tackle one of the hottest issues on campus: girls’ dress code. Ideally, students will finish the course prepared to present a revised dress code for Berkshire.

DEAR ME: THE ART OF THE LETTER

ANNA BARTER
When was the last time that you wrote (or received) a handwritten letter? In this course, we will not only pick up paper and pen but also study letters as a mode of communication and a material object. Together we will read personal correspondences by celebrities such as JK Rowling, as well as letters exchanged between former Berkshire students. Other materials include dedicatory letters, forgeries, letters written in code, postcards, and self-addressed reflections. We will also explore how email, texting, and blogging have altered modern communication. We will examine correspondence through the lens of education, familial relationships, gender roles, romantic and platonic love, social life, travel, and politics.

FROM THE CLOSET TO THE SCREEN—BIG & SMALL

A.J. KOHLHEPP
Given the prominent role that issues of sexuality identity and sexual preference occupy in society – same-sex marriage statutes have been debated in multiple states,
Modern Family won the most recent Emmy for best comedy, and Macklemore had a hit with Same Love– you might think that Americans have always been open about these topics. Think again. Even Hollywood, which tends to be on the forefront of progressive causes, has had a complicated history in its representation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered characters over the past century. Working from the groundbreaking study The Celluloid Closet, this class will investigate the various ways in which sexual minorities have been portrayed in film and consider the ways in which contemporary media portray sexual minorities today.

HIP-HOP: PIMPED, PLAYED, AND HUSTLED

WIL SMITH
Do you want to know the history of hip-hop music? What are its merits within the communities of its origin? How has hip-hop been influenced by a hyper-masculine mainstream American society? This course examines the roles that hip-hop music and culture play in shaping contemporary American culture inside and outside of its ethnic places of its origin. Students will examine the roles played by music label executives in determining which images of hip-hop culture are marketed to the world and the rationale behind their decisions. Finally, students will meet a contemporary hip-hop artist and learn about his personal journey through the industry as well as his thoughts on some of the social topics discussed during the week.

"PRO VITA VICTUS LENTISSIMUS"– SLOW FOOD FOR LIFE

VALERIE AND WALTER LONG ’88
The world in which we live is changing at a rapid pace, and the jobs of today may be non-existent or greatly altered within the near future. The food we eat and the way it is produced has deep ties to our health, our economic prosperity, our environmental sustainability and our cultural interactions. Together with experts working on the front lines of the Slow Food Revolution, we will explore the growing importance of organic producers, environmentally sustainable business models, health impacts of the foods we consume, and the beauty of farm to table cuisine.

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

GWYNETH CONNELL AND JESSE HOWARD
Human beings have been telling stories since they lived in caves. But some people are better at it than others... Why can some people tell you what they had for breakfast and have you hanging on their every word, while others can put you to sleep even when describing their most recent intergalactic space battle? In this class, you will listen to master storytellers, practice methods that will engage your audience, and find a story of your own worth telling. Finally, the collected stories of the group will be recorded as a podcast a la
The Moth and This American Life. Live performances of selected stories may be included in the closing assembly on Saturday morning.

ZEN AND THE ART OF BICYCLE MAINTENANCE

ANDREW BARTER
“Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive,” states Robert Pirsig’s narrator in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, an undeniably philosophical tome. Students will explore fundamental life questions asked in Pirsig’s novel with a slight twist: a focus on the bicycle, one of the most efficient modes of human transportation for traveling short to moderate distances. Students will examine how a bicycle works and the reality of tuning imperfectly shaped parts to create a two-wheel vehicle that allows one to effortlessly roll across campus safely and reliably. By engaging in a very mechanical activity, we will hopefully be able to deduce the intersection of rationality and artistry. 

Berkshire School

245 North Undermountain Road
 |  Sheffield, MA 01257
 |  T: 413 229 8511

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