Engaged Scholarship Courses

Aimed at bridging the gap between academic learning and service work, Engaged Scholarship courses in Social Studies combine rigorous reading and writing in the social sciences with public engagement. Two of the courses draw on the resources of the Phillips Brooks House and are open to students who are concurrently involved in relevant Harvard-affiliated service programs. All four courses offer students the opportunity to connect social science history and theory with practical experience, to actively shape classroom learning through personal involvement with service work, and to reflect on ways that the social sciences can contribute to addressing contemporary community needs and social problems.  

Enrollment will be limited to 10 students in each course. Courses are open to students in all concentrations as long as students meet the public service requirements (see individual course descriptions below for more details). If over-enrolled, courses will be lotteried with priority given to Social Studies concentrators.  

2019-20 Courses

Social Studies 68ea. Engaged Philosophy: The Theory and Practice of Altruism
Bonnie Talbert
Half course (spring term). Monday 12:45-2:45.
Many people feel that it is important to help others and to make the world a better place. This altruistic mission sounds like a noble goal, but like all missions, it requires thoughtful planning and reflection. The main question this course will address is “What is altruism?” We will approach this question from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives such as biology, psychology, political theory, and moral philosophy. Are we naturally altruistic, or are all actions in some sense selfish? How do we know when we are helping others? We will spend a good portion of the course on the “effective altruism” movement, which aims to maximize the amount of good that each of us can do. We will read stories of people who earn money for the sake of giving it away, people who have donated kidneys to strangers, people who adopted over 20 children, and many other examples that illustrate (or not!) different ways of being altruistic. The ultimate goal of this course is to help students think about what it means to help not just theoretically, but also in practice, both by reading examples and by engaging in altruistic activities of their own.

This is an Engaged Scholarship course, limited to students who volunteer in a PBHA or other community-based program. Open to students in all concentrations. 

Note: This course is lotteried.