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Iconic linguist Noam Chomsky to co-teach political course spring 2017

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Darien Bakas | The Daily Wildcat

Noam Chomsky (right) speaks at "A Conversation on Privacy," an event hosted by the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences held in Centennial Hall on March 25. Chomsky will co-teach a political general educaiton course in spring 2017 open to the UA and Tucson communities.

UA students and the Tucson community will have the opportunity to delve into all things politics next semester with a seven-week, general education and humanities seminar hybrid course led by world-renowned intellect, Noam Chomsky, alongside UA professor Marvin Waterstone.

The UA will be hosting the influential academic as a visiting scholar for the upcoming spring semester.

Waterstone said Chomsky is notably recognized at the UA for his ties to the linguistics department, but said Chomsky recently expressed interest in teaching an undergraduate course.

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The two professors looked for a course that was generic in essence but would ultimately allow them the educational freedom they deemed necessary to cover politically contentious issues and ideas.

Fortunately, POL150C2 (What is Politics?), will begin one week prior to the anticipated presidential inauguration. "We couldn't think of a more appropriate kind of subject to be thinking about in that moment," Waterstone said.

By offering this class to both UA students and the Tucson community, Waterstone is looking forward to the cross-generational conversations that will take place, encompassing many different perspectives.

"It's like having the UA's newest students sitting in a classroom with not only their peers but their grandparents," said John Paul Jones lll, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Waterstone was shocked to learn that, in the 30 some years the humanities seminars have been operating, this is the very first course of its kind.

While POL150C2 may constitute as revolutionary in many ways; it also incorporates many new challenges that have never been faced before.

Having to pitch the same course to two different audiences is a challenge both professors are currently considering.

"We have freshmen as the main body of the course since it is a 100 level course, but then we also have seniors—in every sense of that word—as other members of the course," Waterstone said.

However, Waterstone and Chomsky already have an idea about the units and topics they want to cover.

The first week of the course will begin by taking a look at what truly constitutes as common sense.

"How do we know what we think we know about the world," as Waterstone put it.

He said this will be achieved by analyzing and examining social apparatuses like family, education, culture, religion and media, which ultimately are the societal factors responsible for shaping our understanding of the world.

Waterstone said from there the course will narrow in on a prevalent and specific kind of common sense we know as capitalism, and the consequences this mentality has produced.

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Consequences of capitalistic ideals, ranging from environmental threats to social movements, will be closely looked at, leading the class to its final stage: Discerning critical pedagogy and scholarly activism and relating it back to the primary notion of common sense.

"Whatever one's politics, the true beneficiaries will be the students who take the class," Paul Jones lll said.

Paul Jones III said he is truly delighted and grateful that both Chomsky and Waterstone have agreed to teach this wonderful course.

"I think it would be an honor to learn from someone like Noam Chomsky, who is so involved in politics today," said Sarina Sherman, a law and economics junior. "I mean, he teaches at MIT, so to have someone like that teach here for us; I think will be awesome."

Sherman also understands how this can also appeal to non-UA students, due to the simple fact that not a lot of opportunities of this magnitude present themselves within Tucson.


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