Four professors recently explained the importance and timeliness of their respective courses, as well as how such additions to the College’s curriculum would prepare students for life after Pomona.
History of Sexuality
Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Jody Valentine wants the discussions in her History of Sexuality course to be accessible to people outside Pearsons 003.
“In this climate,” she says, “we’re seeing such an increase in control of information for young people who are trying to understand sexuality and their own sexuality, I thought why not make something freely available and accessible that explores certain questions from a historical perspective.”
This semester, Valentine and her students are crafting an open-source online Pressbook that examines the theoretical foundations of sexuality and why ancient Greece is held up as the standard in artistic, literary, philosophical and scientific explorations.
This, as students also absorb the material themselves.
In addition to the common male voices out of ancient Greece, Sappho’s poetry will be included in the Pressbook to provide a female’s perspective on sexuality during those times. There also will be mini-case studies and research projects to browse.
A glossary of terms will allow for easing searching–a recommendation made by a student.
“We’re doing it in a way to invite people to visit our site to be critical thinkers,” Valentine says.
So far, she adds, students have jumped at the opportunity to craft a piece of scholarship “that would be totally accessible in an environment where book bans are keeping resources out of the hands of young people.”
Such an ambitious project, Valentine says, challenges students to digest the coursework and explain it to others as an educator would.
“When you scaffold something for students that is respectful of their capacity to contribute and show up, they are more likely to do so,” she continues. “This Pressbook is giving them the opportunity to ask questions that matter to them and formulate complex, thoughtful, well-researched, grounded answers to those questions.”
Valentine expects the Pressbook–titled “A History of Sexuality Toolkit”–to be available at semester’s end.
The concepts, principles and questions broached in Associate Professor of Philosophy Julie Tannenbaum’s Medical Ethics course touch on topics people will likely face at some point, such as whether euthanasia is permissible and how to respond to healthcare practitioners who conscientiously object to providing this and other kinds of medical services.
Many individuals have already weighed in on such debates.
“Voters, for example,” Tannenbaum says, “sometimes directly determine whether certain medical procedures, such as assisted suicide or abortion, will be legally permitted.”
Some medical advances seem to raise new questions–as is the case with Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, or CRISPR, which can be used to eliminate impairments in living organisms and as an enhancement in both embryos and adults.
While the question of how to use this emerging medical technology is pressing, it isn’t new by any stretch.
“Long before CRISPR,” Tannenbaum says, “people were exercising control over what their children would be like, via abortion, embryo selection post IVF and many other methods. Many of the moral issues with those choices are applicable to CRISPR.”
As such, Tannenbaum’s coursework is crafted in a way to encourage students to critically evaluate the ethical principles that are invoked to settle ethical debates in medicine and develop their own ethical stance as they navigate life as a patient, healthcare provider, legislator, voter, et al.
As critical as it is to develop a stance, Tannenbaum adds, it is equally important to understand that those stances “should be a continual work in progress.”
“They [students] need to keep reading, thinking and discussing these issues with those who might have different points of view so they can refine, abandon and add to their ethical outlook over time,” Tannenbaum says.
Negotiating the U.S. Policyscape
Governing the American state has become increasingly challenging with time, Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics Sean Diament says, as public dissatisfaction with politics combined with politicians running against government culminate “in a particularly self-destructive expression of politics and consistently underwhelming policy provision system.”
In a political realm where perception is often black and white, Diament’s Negotiating the U.S. Policyscape course encourages students to find and explore the gray.
“There is very little coherent logic to the American state, both in politics and especially in governance,” he says. “Our system is the product of centuries of snap decisions based on contemporary issues, that are then left on the books and continue to inform and restructure American politics.”
Inside Carnegie 110, students in Diament’s course sit around a wooden conference table and discuss the American state as it was, is and will be in the future. Diament’s expertise in the field includes the politics of poverty, political inequity, power and conflict, and American political development, among other emphases.
Beyond the political realm, to understand the policyscape, Diament says, is to understand the professional world.
“Coordination is difficult. Problem solving even more so,” he adds. “But another key lesson is to recognize that incremental progress is still progress, and that small modifications to a business, non-profit, or governmental body can have profoundly positive effects on individual lives.”
To that end, Diament hopes students ultimately see that governmental bureaucrats aspire to deliver benefits to the public despite “the meddling and sabotage of elected officials,” he says.
Above all, the politics professor adds, Negotiating the U.S. Policyscape sets out to explain how “governing even in the best of times is extremely hard, even without considering a form of toxic politics that makes it that much harder in the contemporary era.”
Pickleball – Intermediate
It wasn’t all that long ago most Pomona students hadn’t the slightest clue what pickleball was, let alone how to play.
In the 1990s, Professor of Physical Education and former longtime Pomona-Pitzer tennis coach Lisa Beckett says, “you first had to educate them [students], which made it harder to get them to sign up.”
So in lieu of a standalone Pickleball course, Beckett started teaching the sport in a racquet-based class with tennis, table tennis and racquetball.
Fast forward to 2020, and thanks in part to the Faculty/Staff Fitness and Wellness program, pickleball started gaining popularity on campus. Then, Beckett says, “the pandemic gave it more of a push.”
As simple as a court is to set up and how inexpensive equipment is, pickleball caught fire at the outset of the pandemic, and after some planning, the four-court Rogers Tennis Complex was transformed into an eight-court pickleball mecca.
Once back on campus in fall 2021, students started enrolling in Beckett’s beginner’s pickleball course and other sections of Beginning Pickleball in droves. The sport became so popular, in fact, that some 270 students signed up for the 2023-24 pickleball club on campus, Beckett says.
This fall, Beckett launched an intermediate pickleball course.
“It’s a sport students can play for a lifetime,” she says. “Often you see people playing pickleball with lots of different age groups. Older people can play with younger people, kids can play with adults. It’s the way the sport is built.”
A step above Beckett’s beginner’s course, the 50-minute intermediate offering focuses less on the basics and more on strategy and technique. A handful of the 16 students in intermediate pickleball this semester graduated from the starter’s course, while the rest have played enough on their own to feel comfortable at the intermediate level.
Those around the sport say pickleball takes “a minute to learn and a lifetime to master,” Beckett says.
Beckett is still trying to do the latter.
“It’s a thinking person’s game, and our students love that,” she says. “With pickleball, you don’t have to be the best athlete. You can be smart and be very successful.”