November 20, 2002: From the Editor

The most popular course at Princeton this semester is Politics 210, or Political Theory, in which 419 students are reading Plato’s Republic, Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality, and Kant’s On Perpetual Peace, among other things. It is a required course in the university’s most-enrolled-in major, needing 25 precepts to satisfy the demand. In all, about a dozen classes each enroll more than 200 students, including Financial Investments, a course on creating and managing asset portfolios, and introductory microeconomics, in which — according to one student reviewer — Professor Elizabeth Bogan successfully injects “her own conservative humor into some of the more boring material.”

Size, of course, does not always equate with quality. And enrollment can reflect the times. In 1946, PAW reported on History 109, a class “stressing the contemporary crisis in world affairs,” which drew more than 600 students – or nearly one-third of all undergraduates. Professor Walter P. “Buzzer” Hall had to deliver his colorful lectures in two separate sessions at Frick Laboratory to reach them all. That year, there was a marked trend toward higher enrollment in science classes, and 30 students enrolled in Russian, which recently had been added to the curriculum as a “war emergency course.”

This year, the politics department has 280 concentrators – the highest number for at least a decade. Around campus, there is growing interest in courses related to war, terrorism, and the Middle East. Nearly 40 students are studying elementary Arabic. A politics course, Causes of War, which examines cases ranging from the Peloponnesian War to today’s war against terrorism, has drawn more than 100 students, as has a first-time class in Near Eastern studies, The Historical Roots of the Bin Laden Phenomenon.

Beginning with this issue, PAW will take you back to the classroom to glimpse what students are learning today. In addition to occasional feature stories on classes and professors, PAW will run a new column called Subject Matters in alternating issues. In the inaugural column, PAW’s Kathryn Beaumont Fischer ’96 writes about a popular class that has nothing to do with war, terrorism, or shrinking retirement accounts: English 347, or Topics in Drama. For her topic, Assistant Professor Tamsen Wolff, who has directed professional theater productions, chose musical theater. Students read librettos for productions like Show Boat, Sweeney Todd, and The Threepenny Opera, and watch films like Moulin Rouge. The topic stirs even the tone-deaf to song.

Future columns will visit new classes and old standbys, packed lecture halls and intimate freshman seminars. We plan to take you to an engineering class where students build robots with Legos, to a freshman seminar on the history of food (students with allergies are urged to talk to the professor before enrolling), and to Orgo, recently revamped by Professor Maitland Jones.

Also beginning in this issue, you will see a small box in Notebook alerting you to campus lectures available on the Web. This is, of course, not a comprehensive list. But we hope it will provide yet another way for you to sample campus life today.


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