The Politics Of Food
It’s interesting to watch colleges and universities respond to the new social tools available through the internet. Some professors barely use email, pass out photocopies of the class syllabus (unchanged in decades) on Day 1 of the semester, and only accept term papers in printed form. Others have moved much of their teaching, research and public debate work online (e.g., Stanford economist Brad DeLong).
Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs has been experimenting for the past few years with an “Open Classroom”. The Open Classroom is a graduate-level seminar that includes 1 two-hour lecture a week. The lecture is open to the public, videotaped and posted online, and includes an online discussion group that anyone can join. In addition, there’s a weekly seminar meeting just for the graduate students taking (and paying for) the course. Interestingly, the online tools generally complement, rather than replace, the physical presence and participation. An average of nearly 200 people have shown up on Wednesday nights this semester for a class on Food & American Society: An Urban Perspective (What we eat, why, where it comes from, and how it all matters, everyday).
As has become the custom with the Open Classroom, the professor (political scientist & associate dean Chris Bosso this semester) teaching the class invites a series of guest lectuers—professors from other departments at Northeastern, or from one of the dozens of nearby colleges and universities, practitioners from the “real world”, and the occasional special guest who may be in Boston for a conference, book signing or other event. Next week’s guest speaker is noted author and activist, Frances Moore Lappe´. If you’re interested and in the Boston area next Wednesday, you’re welcome to drop in. Class is from 6:00 – 8:00 pm (but if you want a seat, you might want to be a bit early).