Students seldom relish required courses. They are often seen as a burden that everyone would rather get out of the way—a bit like flossing.
Some colleges think they’ve found a solution: They have adopted a curricular approach fit for a generation of oversharers and made the courses all about the students.
Courses with names like “Making Life Count,” “The Meaning of Life,” and “Concepts of the Self” appear in the pages of course catalogs, often as general-education or required offerings. Dozens of colleges list courses in “the good life”—helping students recognize, realize, and maximize it.
While the term originated in philosophy, it has popped up as the central theme of interdisciplinary humanities seminars, film-studies courses, and history classes at community colleges, small elite institutions, and large research universities.
More me-centric courses are coming. The National Endowment for the Humanities is awarding grants to faculty members to develop courses organized around what it calls “enduring questions” that have “long held interest for young people.” An NEH-funded course at Middlebury College includes readings by Aristotle and Confucius, which are intended to encourage students to live more thoughtfully. The creators of the course anticipated that its focus could sound shallow. “We welcome students,” they wrote in their proposal, “who might argue that the very question, ‘What is the good life and how do I live it?’ is naïve and narcissistic.” <Read more.>