Phil Culhane sent in some more thoughts on ARTH 101/102:

I am with Mark; he displays solomonic wisdom on the topic of Art Hist 101/102. Here’s a thought (on a tired Thursday afternoon): sometimes a large lecture hall filled with other students all listening to the same lecture is inspiring–the collective, the group, present, maybe bearing witness, if the lecturer, the material, is good, to something important. No reason a college can’t have room for such a thing (in addition to the famous professor and student see-sawing on a log).

It isn’t that inspiring lectures are a bad thing, but having 7% of Williams classes being large lectures is a bad thing. Moreover, there is a bit of a conflict between large-lecture-as-inspirational and large-lecture-as-restful-veg-out-time — a previously noted benefit of ARTH 101/102.

In your notes to Mark’s missive you mention the idea of maximizing educational value. I forgot to take Econ–who determines maximum value in this context? Isn’t it the student? The consumer of the class? I wouldn’t have taken Art Hist 101/102 as a small discussion class. There would probably have been too much discussion about too few things–too much teaching, from only a few samples, of the methodology of how to talk about “art.” Me, at the time, I wanted lots of art, not lots of discussion.

Far and away the most important judge of the value of a class is the student. But students are not perfect judges. I, personally, was only an adequate judge. There were some classes that, at the time, I thought were quite poor which now, in retrospect, I think of as quite good.

More importantly, the way to run Williams is not, for the most part, to have students vote on things. Students would vote for all sorts of things (more pass/fail classes; fewer papers; easier science labs) that would almost certainly not be in their long term interest, nor in the long term interest of Williams. So, even if every student in ARTH 101/102 said that they preferred a large lecture, I would still restructure the class into small sections.

Each sections would still look at as many slides as the lecture does now, but instead of listening to a lecturer talk (an incredibly inefficient way to teach) students would be expected to have “read the lecture” before class. That is, just transcibe what is lectured in ARTH 101/102 this year and pass that out as part of next year’s reading packet.

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