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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

James Kurt Xyst
GEN ST 197
Seattle Campus

Freshman Seminar

Small-group discussion with faculty representing a wide spectrum of academic disciplines. Topics and approaches vary. Instructor may introduce research techniques or findings, concentrate on readings in his/her area of interest, or illustrate problems and alternatives related to the study of a particular academic discipline. Credit/no-credit only. Offered: AWSp.

Class description

One of the most significant challenges facing you as a UW freshman is the planning of your own education. The University doesn't tell you exactly what to study and the media can send you running towards one "hot major" after another. Alas, since there are as many ways to "do college" as there are students, how can you really know if you're doing it right? Using Plato's "Allegory of the Cave," one of the most revered models of education for two-thousand years, this seminar will reflect on the history and philosophical tradition of the Western university in order to shed light explicitly on how to be an excellent student at the University of Washington. The seminar will involve in-depth weekly readings, reflection and, most importantly, discussion. Topics covered will range from ancient Greek thinking about education to the UW General Education requirements, and from research about the experiences of other UW students to research about what motivates us.

No prior experience with Plato or philosophy required.

Student learning goals

Critically examine how Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” explains your college experience.

Critically interrogate the notion of being “well-rounded.”

Produce an academic strategy for your second year at the University of Washington.

General method of instruction

Readings, in-class lecture (minimal), seminar-style discussion, and of course, Socratic questioning.

Recommended preparation

A recognition that the University of Washington is an historical entity and that your education is based on millennia of thinking; this is helpful, but not required.

No prior experience with Plato or philosophy required.

Class assignments and grading

Primarily short reading and discussion along with creative analysis and planning.

Earning credit for this seminar will be based on:

1. Consistent attendance (no more than one absence). 2. Seminar participation in class and online every week. 3. Taking a leadership role in discussion, either in class or online or both. 4. Two office visits with instructor/s of your other courses. 5. Successful completion of a short writing project. 6. Successful completion of a short final project.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by James Kurt Xyst
Date: 03/30/2010