Asian Studies, Socrates Cafe & Biology of the ‘B’ Movie: New classes will begin next year

Students choosing their schedules for next year have several new options.

Among these are the Asian Studies history class and the Socrates Cafe philosophy/debate course, as well as quite a few electives. 

Asian Studies

Next year, the roar of the Dresden bombings and the speeches of Hitler will be replaced with the soundtrack of East Asian history in Bruce Baird’s classroom.

The History of World War II, which has been taught by Baird for nine years, will not be offered to seniors next year. Asian Studies will take its place.

“I have long thought that we needed an alternative class that could help students meet the non-Western history requirement for admission to the UC/CSU schools,” Baird said.

“World Cultures is challenging enough for native English speakers, so I can imagine how difficult it is for students just learning English. It would be so much better if they could take a non-Western history class as a senior with a couple of years of English under their belt.”

While the growing number of Asian students at the school did come up during the discussions of creating Asian Studies, Baird said that it is not the main reason for the class’s creation.

“You cannot understand East Asia today without understanding how it got there, which means studying its history,” Baird said.

The main reason for the termination of the World War II class was declining enrollment in the class.

Two years ago the class had 18 students. Last year there were four and this year only three.

The structure of Asian Studies will be very similar to that of World War II. The organization of the curriculum will range from class discussions on readings to modern movies concerning East Asia (such as “Fear and Trembling” or “Letters from Iwo Jima”) to possible excursions to local Asian restaurants.

The class focuses on China, Japan and Korea with a secondary focus on Southeast Asia.

Apart from the history of these countries, Baird will also discuss current events concerning the area.

Socrates Cafe

What do Copernicus, Obamacare, Einstein, the financial crisis and ethics have in common?

They will all be discussed in the Great Ideas that Changed History class, more casually known as Socrates Cafe.

The class, which will be taught by English teacher Ron Bell, covers the “game changers” of history, Bell said.

“The history of great ideas means that you go back and look at the big game-changing new ideas that changed history and changed the way people thought about the world,” Bell said.

The idea for a Socrates Cafe originally came from garden coordinator Michael Covey.

Covey, who was the chemistry teacher at the time, suggested creating a class on the history of great ideas shortly before reading “Socrates Cafe,” by Christopher Phillips. Later Covey and Bell would sometimes conduct Socrates Cafe-like discussions during the elective they co-taught.

“Socrates Cafe” introduces a movement to try to interest average people in philosophy.

The class includes an overview of Western philosophy from the ancient Greeks to modern times.

Students will also research topics and present their findings to the group.

“(Students will be) learning how to lead an informed discussion about something,” Bell said. “If you want to argue about healthcare reform, you have to actually go out and learn about it. Then you can argue about that.”

This class structure will teach students how to conduct informed debates. The Socrates Cafe will fulfill the UC “g” elective requirement, meaning the course emphasizes critical thinking and public speaking.

“This class puts things in perspective,” Bell said. “It shows the big picture of intellectual history.”


Is it really possible for a radioactive spider to create a superhuman who can stick to walls and swing from webs?

Students who wish to find out from a scientific standpoint may be interested in the new elective Biology of the “B” Movie, taught by biology teacher Kellie Whited.

The students will watch science-influenced movies and TV shows (such as “Jurassic Park” or “House”) and analyze the authenticity of the science behind them.

“We can see if they’re breaking any laws of science or if it’s something that could theoretically happen,” Whited said.

Drama teacher Brian Frishman will offer three new electives—Drama Festival Preparation, Play Criticism and Film as Literature.

Drama Festival Preparation focuses on readying students for two major drama festivals which they will compete in: The Lenaea Festival in Folsom and The California Thespian Festival in Ontario, Calif.

Play Criticism and Film as Literature, on the other hand, are more involved with observation and analysis of plays and films from an outside-of-the-production perspective.

Students in Play Criticism will go on field trips to local plays and critique the productions.

Film as Literature will center on the Academy Award-winning films in the best picture, best director and best screenplay categories.

For those less interested in film, there are other offerings to choose from.

English teacher Ron Bell will teach World Arts and Culture: Ethnic Voices, which explores how America is influenced by other cultures within our own.

This elective will be very similar to Bell’s elective this year, World Literature: Ethnic Voices. Next year, Bell will include Native American and Latin0 influences in addition to the already heavily discussed African-American influences.

“It’s a cultural history class where we will be looking at the evolution of the unique art forms that are associated with the cultures that influence mainstream America,” Bell said.

Ethnic Voices will focus on the cultural influences on music in America.

“Most forms of popular music today,  such as blues, jazz and rap, stem from African-American roots,” Bell said. “Even rock ’n’ roll and pop music stems from this African influence.”

Some already existing electives will return with a twist next year.

English teacher Jane Bauman will teach Study Skills for International Students in place of English as a Second Language (ESL).

“The Study Skills class is not intended to teach students language skills (as ESL usually did), but to help more with cultural differences,” Bauman said. “International students will learn a lot of English through immersion and integration in American high-school life. This class will support them academically.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email