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Courses

CTY Princeton

The courses at CTY-Princeton focus on global issues in the twenty-first century. As they examine topics ranging from war to pandemics to national security, students wrestle with many of the major socio-political challenges of our time. For instance, Human Nature and Technology explores various facets of human nature in relation to our reliance on technology in our everyday lives while Epidemiology deals with AIDS and other infectious diseases within the context of public health. Students in these courses will engage in frank discussions of contemporary issues and will use materials typical of college courses. For example, a film students view may be R-rated, or students may engage topics of a politically sensitive or controversial nature. All course content will be chosen for its academic value, approached from an academic perspective, and taught with guidance and support from the instructors that is sensitive to the age of the students. When selecting courses, students should consider their comfort levels with the course's content and major themes. The following courses are offered at Princeton:

All courses are open to math/science and writing/humanities qualifiers. Please note the prerequisites, and remember that you must attach documentation in order to be placed in the course.

Please note that the sample syllabi are meant to provide an idea of the level of the course and whether or not the content area interests you. CTY instructors are given guidelines within which they each develop their own syllabi. Choice and sequencing of topics within the content area, as well as specific activities, labs, and assignments, will vary.

The Mathematics of Competitive Behavior

Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, once said, “Business is a game—the greatest game in the world if you know how to play it.” In today’s global economy and the international political arena, the study of games and strategy continues to be a vital part of the education of historians, economists, and politicians. In this course, students learn how to use principles of probability, statistics, and combinatorics to make strategic decisions based on another party’s actions and reactions. With these tools, students investigate the applications of game theory, learning not only how different strategies helped to define historical events, but also how they are applied today in the fields of economics and politics.

Note: Students who have taken CTY’s Probability and Game Theory or Game Theory and Economics should not take this course.

Prerequisite: At least a “B” in Algebra II.

Sample text: Materials compiled by the instructor.

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Epidemiology, Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, and Pandemics

Since 2003, there have been over 600 confirmed cases of avian flu in fifteen countries. The Center for Disease Control estimates that in the United States there are currently 1.1 million people living with HIV, and that worldwide in 2012 there were over 207 million cases of malaria. Despite almost daily scientific breakthroughs, infectious diseases remain one of the leading causes of death worldwide. How are these statistics compiled, and how are they used to combat these diseases?

Students in this course investigate the science and politics of disease. From examining the role that epidemiologists play in unlocking the points of origin of pandemics to dissecting the behavior of policymakers as they address AIDS or avian flu, students gain insight into the cause and spread of global diseases, the role of scientists in identifying, controlling, and/or preventing diseases, and the political and ethical implications therein. Moreover, students build a foundation in cell, bacterial, and viral biology as they explore topics including evolutionary biology and pathogenic resistance to drugs

While this is a science-based course, it also explores the interplay between society and disease by examining the roles of the arts and the media in highlighting not only issues of global health but also issues of human rights and the stigma associated with infectious diseases. Combining the societal lens with an understanding of the tools scientists use—from statistical analysis to computer modeling to biomedical research—students leave the course with a more complete understanding of how epidemiologists combat diseases in the present and prepare for diseases in the future.

Sample texts: Mountains Beyond Mountains, Kidder; The Coming Plague, Garrett; The Medical Detectives, Roueché.

Prerequisite: CTY’s Fast-Paced High School Biology or at least a “B” in first-year high school biology.

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Science, Technology, and Public Policy

Governments around the world must wrestle with crucial questions about how their policies affect science and technology and, in turn, how advances in science and technology affect their domestic and international affairs. Is global climate change a real concern, and, if so, how can it be slowed without disrupting economic activity? Is funding fetal stem cell research in an effort to cure diseases ethical? Should we spend vast sums to build the enormous particle accelerators required to make the next great advances in physics? How should scarce vaccines be distributed to prevent a possible epidemic? Answering these questions requires an interdisciplinary knowledge of science, philosophy, political science, and public policy.

In this course, students explore the nexus of science and public policy. They investigate the tools and methods policy analysts and science advisors use to assess these issues. They learn about how governments solicit expertise, determine funding, and regulate science research and technological industries. Students then work through a number of real-life case studies. They take on the role of government policy makers, deciding, for example, whether to build a new nuclear power plant and how to dispose of the radioactive waste, whether to invest in space exploration, or whether to require costly prenatal testing for birth defects. Students leave with an understanding of how science and technology affect national agendas and the public interest.

Sample text: Materials compiled by the instructor.

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Global Politics: Human Rights and Justice

More than 920 million people are undernourished globally, despite the fact that the world already produces more than enough food for everyone. Numerous countries eschew global responsibilities to pursue national interests, leading to heavy pollution or overuse of nonrenewable resources, while affluent states regularly deny emigration to individuals seeking to escape persecution or poverty.           

What obligations of justice do developed states and their citizens owe to those who suffer across the globe? What justifies the maintenance of social structures that perpetuate inequality and harm future generations? Can or should states intervene militarily to redress human rights abuses? Students approach key questions like these from an interdisciplinary perspective as they explore scholarship and ideas central to solving issues of international justice.

Students in this course simulate the decision-making processes states face when balancing sovereign interests against moral duties, especially as they pertain to human rights and distributive economic justice. By researching major case studies of genocide, learning the history and practice of multilateral aid networks, and debating theories of justice, students learn to think critically about the complex forces that shape our world, and discover what they can do to understand and resolve important global problems.

Sample texts: Political Theory and International Relations, Beitz; Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, Donnelly; a major newspaper.

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Human Nature and Technology

This philosophy course explores questions of human nature—Who are we? What are we?—in light of recent technological progress, including new sources of communication, breakthroughs in biotechnology, developments in artificial intelligence and cybernetics, and advancements in modern warfare. Students consider how the human ability to transform our environment affects our individual and collective self-understanding, as well as our reflections on the meaning and value of human life.

From both current and historical contexts, students rigorously evaluate philosophical questions: How do technological leaps such as the agricultural revolution impact social order and our identities? At what point do cybernetic implants transform a person from man to machine? In what sense is your online identity “you?” Does online social networking enhance or replace authentic human interaction? What do chaos theory and network theory suggest about our human nature? Are technological devices morally neutral tools that we can use in good or bad ways, or are some inherently good or bad? Students work together to critically reflect upon these issues, developing the ability to construct and evaluate formal arguments.

Although this is a philosophy course, it is interdisciplinary in scope, and students may be exposed to readings from a wide range of disciplines, including literature, history, and science. Through critical reading and analytical writing, debates, group activities, and research projects, students explore the relationship between human nature and technology and gain a broad appreciation for who we are, how we work, and what our future will be. 

Sample texts: Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition: An Anthology, Scharff; Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence, Clarke; On the Internet, Dreyfus.

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Politics in the Middle East

Almost daily, global media outlets highlight the Middle East. From Iran’s nuclear program to the recent civil protests across the Arab world, the politics of the region have come to play a critical role in international affairs. But how do we define the Middle East? What are shared characteristics of Middle Eastern states? Why have some countries in the region evolved in highly disparate ways?

In this class, students seek to answer these and other questions by placing contemporary Middle Eastern issues in historic, geographic, and social contexts. Students examine broad issues affecting many states in the region, such as colonial and post-colonial history, Arab nationalism, Islam, political economy, and democracy and authoritarianism. Through research, analysis, and current-events readings, students conduct investigations of selected states. With this background, they work to disentangle the underlying assumptions embedded in more contemporary critical issues ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Arab Spring revolutions.

Students leave the course with an increased awareness of the rich history and politics of the area and the complexities inherent in US and international involvement in the region. Moreover, they develop the critical reading and analytical skills necessary to better make sense of the Middle East today.

Sample texts: Politics and Change in the Middle East, Anderson, Seibert, and Wagner; National Geographic Atlas of the Middle East.

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Politics and Film

As early masterworks like Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (Russia, 1925) and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (Germany, 1927) illustrate, film has always been a key medium for exploring and confronting urgent political and social concerns around the world. By dramatizing important, controversial events and situations, directors place viewers into narrative contexts that allow them to experience people and circumstances that might otherwise remain somewhat remote.

This course examines films from different cultures and traditions that deal with some of the most pressing international political issues of our time. From David O. Russell’s deconstruction of American military intervention in the Persian Gulf War in Three Kings (United States, 1999) to Fernando Meirelles’ poignant portrait of abject poverty and the devastation of AIDS in northern Kenya in The Constant Gardener (United Kingdom, 2005), students analyze crucial works of world cinema within the complex historical and political contexts which give rise to such films. Beginning with a classic of political filmmaking such as Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (Algeria, 1967), students learn the language of contemporary film criticism and focus on critical issues such as poverty and violence, the just use of force, imperialism, and oppression based upon race, ethnicity, class, and gender. Students also consider how directors approach political issues from different perspectives and narrative techniques.

Students study four to six complete films in depth, and write and revise four formal critical essays. Through intense discussion and analytical writing, students grapple with some of the most prescient issues that our world faces today and gain the foundational skills necessary to successfully engage the ever-increasing complex global society in which we all live.

Sample texts: My Battle of Algiers: A Memoir, Morgan; We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rawanda, Gourevitch; A Short Guide to Writing About Film, Corrigan.

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Race and Politics

In a dissenting opinion in Schuette v. BAMN, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “Race matters. Race matters in part because of the long history of racial minorities being denied access to the political process.” Not only in the U.S., but throughout the world, race plays a central role in who has and who is denied access to political processes and decisions. Students in this course investigate the complex intersection of race and politics both in the US and around the world.

Engaging students with issues of identity politics, race, privilege, and ethnicity, this course emphasizes important critical reading and thinking skills. Students explore various constructions of racial identity – biological, cultural, and political – and discuss the history of shifting ideas about what race means. With a firm grasp of relevant critical and cultural theory, students analyze the role of race in global events throughout history, considering case studies that might include the genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans, Apartheid in South Africa, the colonialism of the British Raj, and the political fallout of the US government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Students will critically read both primary and secondary sources; participate in discussions, debates, projects and simulations; and write analytical essays, drawing sophisticated connections between issues of race and politics.

Sample texts: Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview, Smedley; Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations, Feagin.

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