I intended this column to be a rant. I was incredulous. Karl Marx was one of the most influential thinkers of the last two centuries.
Yet there is no course on Marx in the College. Not in Sociology, History, Economics, Political Science or Philosophy. Not one course in any of the five disciplines in which he was a major figure. "What a disgusting omission!" I was prepared to write.
Now that I've removed my foot from my mouth, I can tell you: A Marx course is coming.
The German Department is planning a course "that will deal with not only Marx's biography and the times, but [also his] economic political theory and the practical translation of the theory in various governments up until the fall of the Wall," said German professor Liliane Weissberg.
The six-professor department was the catalyst for the existing Freud offering. Marx and Nietzsche are next. It's odd that a tiny language department is spearheading this effort, but Weissberg believes a Marx course is unlikely to come from traditional departments.
The University needs "to create the space to discuss these kinds of ideas," she explained. "We can offer interdisciplinary courses by gathering the strength of individual departments whose main focus is elsewhere. There is no single department that has a main focus that would accommodate Freud or Nietzsche or Marx."
Weissberg believes that this project is vital. Penn students should be taught Marx, Freud and Nietzsche "because they should be intellectually advanced, educated, savvy and go out in the world and become reflective persons."
I took a Marxist theory course in Ireland, an intellectually stimulating exercise that has few equals.
But it's not only that he's challenging to grasp.
"Marx is awfully important. He is one of the major philosophers not just for the 19th but also the 20th Century [and] a university cannot afford not teaching him and his theories," Weissberg emphasized.
Weissberg hopes to have the Marx course listed with several College of Arts and Sciences departments. She also wants to cross-list with Wharton. That's right, Wharton, our capitalist assembly line.
It's strange to imagine Wharton accepting such a proposal. Who's more anti-Wharton than Karl Marx? If you want men in suits to freak out start dropping Marxist leaflets in Huntsman.
However, if Wharton did take the Marx course on, it would be a meaningful gesture. It would reaffirm that Penn is open to all ideas, even ones which threaten the existence of the forum.
This discussion is only possible because Penn lo-oves interdisciplinary studies.
"How can sociology inform history? How can history inform science? How can science inform religion, or economics?" asked College Dean Dennis DeTurck. "Penn has a structure that encourages interdisciplinary work. . We do more cross listing here than any place I've ever seen."
When a new course is proposed, there is little red tape. "There's no bureaucratic obstacle to [someone offering] a course once," said DeTurck. "You have to get approval to give the course a second time, not the first.
Yesterday, the School of Arts and Sciences' curriculum committee discussed two new additions - a Criminology major and a Jazz Studies minor. These will likely be approved in April. Last year, another new major, Modern Middle East, was added. None of these three programs root themselves in any one of the traditional disciplines. The Criminology majors, for example, will take elective courses from Sociology and Anthropology.
It's not often that I have nothing to complain about, but this is the case now. The Marx, Freud and Nietzschze courses, and the new majors and minor, demonstrate Penn's progressive attitude towards interdisciplinary studies.
Penn, you have created a system that encourages innovative courses and majors which otherwise would not be offered to students. You've built an institution where faculty with bold ideas can find an outlet, and where students with a unique interest can explore further.
Now I call on a professor to make my dream a reality.
A course on Sam Adams.
Alex Weinstein is a College senior from Bridgeport, W.Va. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Straight to Hell appears on Thursdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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