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
CPSC 150a Computer Science and the Modern Intellectual
Agenda David Gelernter
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,
No previous experience with computers necessary.
- 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
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