Pun Salad Can Be Bought

Longtime readers may have noticed that Pun Salad gets a lot of inspiration from the good folks at the Torch, the blog of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. They currently have an offer in place I could not refuse, leading me to insert the Javascript widget you might have noticed over there on the left er, right. Wish it had better news about our fair University, but … well, the widget will let you know if the situation changes.

Bloggers who are similarly inclined and situated might want to check out the link above. I hear rumors that a free t-shirt from FIRE is on the way.

Last Modified 2012-10-17 2:54 PM EDT

Picking Bones (but no Skulls) with Phi Beta Cons

Over at Phi Beta Cons there's a post titled "The Easy Way Out at Yale" from Travis Kavulla. He bemoans the (probably true) fact that Yale lacks a "core curriculum with prescribed courses that every Yale student would have to take;" instead they require that a certain number of courses be taken from each of a list of approved choices in a few select categories.

This brings up the issue of "guts": courses that fulfill the graduation requirements while demanding the absolute minimum of student time and skull-sweat. Travis posts an anonymous e-mail billing itself as "the Fall 2007 Installment of my Semi-Annual Yale University Gut Course Review." Travis calls it "both funny and telling," and he's not wrong; go check it out.

I noted a small problem down in the Computer Science section, though:

computer science and the modern intellectual agenda: Yeah, I read the title to this and asked myself "uhh, what is the modern intellectual agenda?" too. This may get the award for the most random mix of subjects to the point that there is pretty much nothing to say. It'd be like having a class on pornography in the boer war. Seriously, there cannot be more than like 5 sentences to say about that in the universe. If you are willing to really have no clue what you are getting in to, this looks like a great gut.
Gut or not, it looked interesting, so I went on over to Yale's website and found
CPSC 150a Computer Science and the Modern Intellectual Agenda David Gelernter
MW 11:35-12:50
An introduction to the basic ideas of computer science (computability, algorithm, virtual machine, symbol processing system) and of several ongoing relationships between computer science and other fields, including philosophy of mind, classical cognitivism, connectionism, and artificial life. No previous experience with computers necessary.
Whoa. Observations:
  • Even I've heard of David Gelernter.

  • He's a very well-known and respected computer scientist with interesting and provocative views.

  • He survived being blown up by the Unabomber.

  • He's a frequent contributor to various publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, and—you may have seen this coming—National Review, the hosting entity for Phi Beta Cons.

  • It's pretty clear that the anonymous smartass e-mailer has no clue about the course other than its title.

  • In the light of the above, I'd wager that the course may be pretty far from Gutdom.

  • In fact, I find myself kind of wishing I could sit in. New Haven's kind of a hike though.

I sent mail to Travis Kavulla pointing some of this out. We'll see if I hear anything back, or get any revised and extended remarks out of Phi Beta Cons.