The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday March 25th

Six cool and weird classes offered at UNC this semester

The Olympic Games: A Global History

History 220, taught by professor Matthew Andrews, combines history with sports by diving into the Olympic Games. Its official title is "The Olympic Games: A Global History."

The class will explore mostly summer and a few winter olympic games. It will discuss in detail the relationship between the Games and global issues of the respective times such as the rise of nationalism and the Nazi regime. 

“We’ll talk about obviously the Nazi Olympics in 1936 and debates around the world about boycotting the Hitler regime,” he said. “Everything that we talk about and what you’ll be tested on and what you’ll be writing on are these larger, more significant historical themes.”

Andrews said he hopes students can see through this particular course, as well as with his other sports history classes, that sports are not just games.

“We watch these races and we get excited by them for these competitions, but sports are much more important than that, I think,” Andrews said. 

“Sports are these arenas where ideas about race and gender and national identity, you know, political power… all these stories are told and reproduced in these events.”

Sex and American History

History professor John Sweet will be teaching History 236: "Sex and American History." This class covers how sexual roles, sexual behavior and conversations about sexuality have changed over time. It asks critical questions about what implications these concepts have for the world today.

“This is a class that’s organized around a series of questions rather than a set of answers,” Sweet said. “This class is an exploration of a variety of different ways in which history can shed light on the nature of sex and the relationship between sex and society in American culture.” 

Sex and American History asks critical questions about the need to classify sexual behavior and whether dating and marriage are on the way out.

The class does not just deal with literal sex. It encourages conversation about what people do with sex, how sex influences culture and political thought and how sexual concepts have changed over the centuries.

Sweet said he’s been interested in the study of sexuality for many years.

“I found it really fascinating because it was a powerful way of looking at, a some times unexpected way, of opening up questions in history that often seem settled.”

Once Upon a FairyTale: Fairy Tales and Childhood

For those college students who don’t want to grow out of fairytales, Comparative Literature 279 should catch your eye. Called "Once upon a FairyTale: Fairy Tales and Childhood, Then and Now," this class discusses different versions of the stories and why they are much more than mere fantasies and tales.

Margaret Reif, teaching assistant for the class, said she is very enthusiastic about the subject. She said people can learn a lot about cultural trends through fairytales.

“Fairytales are often a vehicle for transmitting cultural values,” she said. 

“What’s good, what’s bad behavior. What behavior should be rewarded, what should be punished.”

A topic that will be discussed in the class is how female passivity is portayed and what is appropriate for women to aspire to. 

She said the class will look at these examples in literature and how they reflect their respective cultures. 

Reif said everyone has a different relationship with fairytales, and a lot of people don’t think about the underlying meanings of the stories. She said she hopes, however, students will be able to realize their elegance and complexity.

“[This class] changes how you look at fairy tales,” she said. “They’re everywhere.”

Seafood Forensics

There is now a class to find out what was in your fish taco at Lenoir. 

John Bruno and Christopher Martin’s one-semester-old course, BIOL 221, on seafood forensics teaches students how to identify species of fish based on their genes.

Bruno, who has been at UNC for 16 years, said this course aims to break the mold of a typical lab course at UNC.

“We’re trying to completely do away with those and instead implement research science courses where students are actually asking relevant questions,” he said.

The course takes students from the basics of pipetting to sequencing and matching portions of mitochondrial DNA in a process called DNA barcoding. Once students master this process, they are given a sticker that says “I DNA Barcoded” in a ceremony.

He said the course will have less lecturing and more hands-on research experience where students have the opportunity to publish their work.

“There’s really good science that shows students learn much better when they’re doing (things) instead of just sitting passively,” Bruno said.

“We really want them to see what science is about.”

Women and United States History

Professor Katherine Turk’s History 144 course, "Women in United States History," seeks to tell the narrative of American history from a perspective that is not always taught.

Turk, who was hired by UNC’s Department of History to increase course offerings in women’s and gender history, said many people taking her course did not learn women’s perspectives in previous history courses.

“We sort of start from the beginning all the way up to the present but with a lot of emphasis on how women’s experiences and perspectives really varied based on where they lived but also their race, class, sexuality — differences in identity,” Turk said.

One of Turk’s favorite parts of the course is delving into second-wave feminism in the 1960s and 70s. She often encourages students to ask older female relatives about their life during this time which can increase intergenerational conversations within families.

“It’s not something that happened generations and generations ago,” Turk said. “(Students) already know people who lived through all of this history. Our own relatives are great resources about thinking about our recent past.”

Prejudice and Stereotyping 

For his first course taught at UNC, professor Patrick Harrison wants students to immerse themselves in the subject of prejudice.

Harrison is teaching PSYC 565, "Stereotyping, Prejudice and Discrimination," where his students will learn ways to resolve conflict.

“I really want this to be a class designed not only to understand the historical, empirical and theoretical origins of prejudice but also — I think this is the most important part — ways to improve relationships with people who might be from different groups,” Harrison said.

Harrison said the strong social action component of the course makes it unique.

“Students will be required to spend a good bit of the course leading a group project where they identify a type of prejudice and then develop an action plan for reducing that type of prejudice,” he said.

Through activities like creating an “identity wheel,” Harrison hopes his students will learn more about themselves and issues of prejudice.

“I think the course is different because it will really allow (students) not only to learn the theory and the research but also to get to know themselves and their fellow classmates on a much deeper level.”

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