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MIT student blogger Bryan O. '07

Goldilocks and the n HASS classes by Bryan

too hot, too cold, just right. on picking a hass class.

So while I like to pretend that I don’t procrastinate sometimes, up until today, I’ve procrastinated about selecting a HASS class for next semester.


Unfortunately this semester, I left the selection of my HASS class to last, so I have to find one that fits my schedule instead of really being able to just select a class I want to take just like I select my other classes.

After using the search tool online, I managed to come up with 179 results, and I’ve since filtered that list down to just a couple. My approach to selecting a HASS class is that I want to take a class on material that sounds interesting. Some students like to select “easy” classes, and I think classes are easier when you are interested in the material and can therefore contribute and participate more.

A few weeks ago, Mitra, also highlighted some cool classes next semester in her blog, and since Mitra is just so cool, those classes that also appear in my list will be marked with an (M).

Here are the classes; let me know what you think!

11.002J Fundamentals of Public Policy
Provides an introduction to policy-making. Explores policy questions from the perspective of different focal actors, including administrative agencies, citizen and interest groups, and the media. Examines the interplay between policy development and institutions, and reviews normative and empirical models of policy-making. Considers the significance of the democratic context for policy-making. Primary focus on domestic policy.

11.017 Urban Space and Society (M)
Focuses on how the spaces of the modern city relate to its social life. Explores six conditions of urban space: the positive aspects of density; the qualities of liveliness; the distinction between borders and boundaries; the dilemmas of security; the problems of monotony and repetition; the nature of complexity and mixed use. Relates these conditions to sociological analyses and debates about crowding, impersonality and community, segregation, the operations of power, networks and personal freedom in the city. Combines lectures on social theory with field-work in which students illustrate a spatial-social issue photographically and discuss the result.

14.41 Public Finance and Public Policy (M)
Explores the role of government in the economy, applying tools of basic microeconomics to answer important policy questions such as government response to global warming, school choice by K-12 students, Social Security versus private retirement savings accounts, national versus price controlled health insurance, setting income tax rates for individuals and corporations.

24.263 The Nature of Creativity
Introduction to problems about creativity as it pervades human experience and behavior. Questions about imagination and innovation studied in relation to the history of philosophy as well as more recent work in philosophy, affective psychology, cognitive studies, and art theory. Readings and guidance with student’s focus of interest.

24.264 Film as Visual and Literary Mythmaking
Problems in the philosophy of film as well as literature studied in relation to their making of myths. Readings and film that draw upon classic myths of the Western world. Emphasis on meaning and technique as the basis of creative value in both media.

21M.604J Playwriting I
Introduces the craft of writing for the theater. Through weekly assignments, in class writing exercises, and work on a sustained piece, students explore scene structure, action, events, voice, and dialogue. Examine produced playscripts and discuss student work. Emphasis on process, risk-taking, and finding one’s own voice and vision.

21W.732 Introduction to Technical Communication

Subject focuses on various forms of technical and scientific writing, including special problems in organizing and presenting technical information and writing for different audiences and purposes. Frequent writing assignments, regular revisions, and short oral presentations are required. Readings and specific writing assignments vary by section. See subject’s URL for enhanced section descriptions. Emphasis is on developing students’ ability to write clear and effective prose. Students can expect to write frequently, to give and receive response to work in progress, to improve their writing by revising, to read the work of accomplished writers, and to participate actively in class discussions and workshops.

21W.778 Science Journalism
An introduction to print daily journalism and news writing, focusing on science news writing in general, and medical writing in particular. Emphasis is on writing clearly and accurately under deadline pressure. Class discussions involve the realities of modern journalism, how newsrooms function, and the science news coverage in daily publications. Discussions of, and practice in, interviewing and various modes of reporting. In class, students write numerous science news stories on-deadline. There are additional longer writing assignments outside of class.

STS.002 Toward the Scientific Revolution

The emergence of Western science: the systematization of natural knowledge in the ancient world, the transmission of the classical legacy to the Latin West, and the revolt from classical thought during the scientific revolution. Examines scientific concepts in light of their cultural and historical contexts.

21H.206 American Consumer Culture
Examines how and why twentieth-century Americans came to define the “good life” through consumption, leisure, and material abundance. Explores how such things as department stores, advertising, mass-produced cars, and suburbs transformed the American economy, society, and politics.

Many of you may have questions about HASS classes, so if you do, please email me with questions or post a comment. To date, I’ve taken 6 HASS classes, and I don’t plan on stopping after the required 8. And also, if you have any questions in general, don’t hesitate to ask. Incoming freshmen want to know what to pack, how to eat for cheap, etc, let me know!

4 responses to “Goldilocks and the n HASS classes”

  1. Mitra says:

    I’m going to try to take some combination of 11.013/11.014/11.017 this year — I’ve heard from a Course 1 friend that these classes are really well taught.

    Stella took 11.002J, so she can tell you how that was.

    Also, I’m for sure taking 14.41 — Professor Gruber wrote the textbook!

    “…the new textbook by Jonathan Gruber is not only the best public finance textbooks I’ve ever read; it is one of the best textbooks I’ve read in any field.”

  2. Pam says:

    yay for posting pics from smile

  3. Eric says:

    Hmmm… I’m not a student here yet (and I don’t know if I’ll be one next year), but I think you should try 11.002J, coz it sounds interesting to see how decisions are made at higher authorities. It’s like probing into their own mindsets.

    Otherwise, if you asked me, I’d go for 21W.778 – Science Journalism. We’re all scientists and engineers, and someday we’re gonna have to communicate our knowledge to the general public, so it’s a good thing perhaps to learn how to simplify our complexities to something the informed layman can understand. Writing’s been my own interest, though, so that’s the real reason why I’d choose it – simply to write.

  4. Chris says:

    I took 14.41 on listener last year when the textbook was still in its pilot form. Needless to say, it’s a great class. Gruber’s lectures are very interesting and engaging. You know how I feel about public policy – I’m taking Science, Technology, and Public Policy this term to round out my Poli Sci double major. My other HASS class will be 14.24J (Health Economics). Doesn’t seem like those fit into your schedule, however. It’s good that some people actually care about their HASS selections – they’re as important as any other and the classes nicely round out your schedule.