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This interdisciplinary seminar is designed to provide students with an introduction to human ecology. The focus of this year's class will be the topic of wealth. We will take an interdisciplinary, approach to this topic, drawing upon the work of novelists, philosophers, political theorists, economists, artists, and others. In so doing, our aim is to provide a model for a human ecological approach to a complex social phenomenon, and to give students experience in defining and addressing a complex subject. An additional goal of this course is to introduce students to critical reading, writing and discussion skills that are an essential ingredient for a student's success at COA.
All sections of this course will begin by reading The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The seminar sections will be taught separately, although there will be several guest lecturers that will give all-campus presentations on topics of common interest to all sections.
This particular seminar will center on three broad questions of the distribution of wealth. First, to what extent are resources and income distributed unevenly throughout the world and in various countries and societies? Second, do these inequalities matter? Why or why not? And third, how do inequalities arise, why do they so often persist, and how, if ever, can inequalities be ameliorated?
We will read selections from a number of current and classical political and economic thinkers as we consider these questions. In addition, a central component of this course will be examining what light, if any, simple mathematical and computational models can shed on questions of the origin of inequalities and strategies for producing more equitable outcomes. Computational models similar to the ones we'll consider in the class are playing an increasingly important role in social scientific and biological research. In this course students will gain a critical introduction to this style of modeling. One of the questions that will emerge is the extent to which one can, or cannot, predict large-scale phenomena based on knowledge of simple interactions or "rules of the game." We will also briefly discuss ethnographic and historical approaches to questions of inequality.
Evaluation will be based on class discussion and participation, several short papers, several problem sets, and the final presentation. Prerequisites: high-school algebra. No computer experience is required. Introductory. *HE* Lab fee $50.
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