Princeton needs a Princeton Studies Department. It can start simple: maybe with just PRS 346/AMS 346 “Princeton Through History,” covering the British soldiers hiding in Nassau Hall through Einstein’s residency. I think this would really help me understand the rich (orange and black) tapestry of tradition that continues to shape my educational experience. Having missed FRS 116 “Eye of the Tiger: Reading Buildings”, I think a similar course (PRS 357/ARC 357) should be offered permanently, which will, like its predecessor, “explore a quarter-millennium of buildings, tracing how the campus has grown and transformed as different attitudes tied to the cultural ethos of their era have prevailed.” (FRS seminar website). With the generous help of the Alumni, I’m sure we could arrange such classes as WWS 401/PRS 401 “Policy Task Force: PRINCETON”, allowing undergraduates to get a hands-on understanding of the problems facing Princeton’s role in the local and state government, and culminating in a presentation to President Tilghman about how Princeton can better spend its political capital. And shouldn’t we eventually require all members of the Honor Committee to take PRS 387/CHV 387 “Honorary Ethics: The Honor Code and You”?
For the few Princeton students concerned with their careers after graduation, PRS 421 “In the Nation’s Service? Princeton Students and the Job Market” could offer the increased self-knowledge to pick the career which will best suit them. (Additionally, such a class could impress upon students the tremendous debt we owe the university—a debt which, no matter how much we try, can never be re-paid). Wondering whether “dry eating club” is an oxymoron? Find out in PRS 361 “Perspectives on Prospect”, featuring revealing guest lectures by the bouncers, an analysis of bicker, and an instructive field trip enigmatically referred to in the syllabus as “Prospect 10.” Because each of us only gets a chance to actually interact with a small proportion of the student body, a class like PRS 318/SOC 318 “Who’s Who in 2009? Demographics of the Orange Tower” would help us understand exactly who is in the freshman class. Extensive use of the data gathered by the admissions department, the students themselves, and even a perusal of thefacebook.com would provide diverse ways for us, as undergraduates, to better understand the undergraduate population.
Just think of the informative theses that such a department will generate! Don’t you want to read, “Terrace: Of the Street, But Not On the Street”, “A League of Its Own: Princeton and the Ivy League”, or “The Tiger’s Pride: Princeton’s Long Lost Battle with Elitism”? Naturally, the average quality of Princeton Studies Department theses will be considerably higher than other departments—after all, what do you know more about then your own experiences at Princeton?
Did you feel overwhelmed by the course catalogue as a freshmen? Dispel this bewilderment with PRS 102 “Planning Your Course Of Study”, a comparative approach to departments, professors and classes. The final project could be a map of your whole Princeton career! We all come to college hoping to further define our personalities, to grow as people, but it’s not easy—unless you’ve taken PRS 204 “Finding Yourself: How Princeton Can Help”. Why stop there? For more mundane issues, there would of course be PRS 101 “The Princeton Dorm: A User’s Guide” and PRS 104 “Beyond Princeton Township: Route One and Greater New Jersey”.
I’d love to understand how professors construct their classes, and design exams, so why not have a class about the Princeton class? The first half could be informative and the second half could be an in-depth look at how the first half was constructed. The professor could lecture on himself and the students could each make a presentation about how much work they did, why, and when they were bored.
In fact, don’t steal my idea, but I’ve already started working on my thesis. It’s called “Ben Elga: An Interdisciplinary Approach to One Princeton Student”, and I think the first few chapters will be about this article.