Introduction to Ancient Greece: A Free Online Course from Yale

Last fall, Yale Uni­ver­si­ty intro­duced a sec­ond round of open cours­es that includ­ed Don­ald Kagan’s Intro­duc­tion to Ancient Greek His­to­ry. A major fig­ure in the field, Kagan takes stu­dents from the Greek Dark Ages, through the rise of Spar­ta and Athens, The Pelo­pon­nesian War, and beyond. You’ll cov­er more than a mil­len­ni­um in 24 lec­tures. Above, we start with the first lec­ture, which talks about why the Ancient Greeks should still mat­ter to us today. As I’ve not­ed else­where, Yale’s cours­es are well pro­duced. And what’s par­tic­u­lar­ly nice is that the course can be down­loaded in one of many for­mats (text, audio, flash video, low band­width quick­time video, and high band­width quick­time video). Or you can grab it on YouTube (as above) and iTunes too.  Sim­ply choose the for­mat that works for you, and you’re good to go. For more free cours­es on the Ancients, please see our page called: Learn­ing Ancient His­to­ry for Free.

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The Open Culture Archive

Want to see every post that we have writ­ten since 2006? Then look back through our Archive. We just cre­at­ed it and added it to the site, part­ly in response to a read­er request. You can per­ma­nent­ly find the Archive in the sec­ond col­umn, between “Essen­tials” and “Cat­e­gories.” Enjoy.

Should You Give to Harvard?

That’s the ques­tion that The Ethi­cist asks in The New York Times. Below, I present the issue and part of the answer. Read through it all and tell us where you stand on the issue.

The Issue

The fis­cal year for major uni­ver­si­ty endow­ments end­ed June 30, and schools have been report­ing their results: not good. In the Har­vard-Yale port­fo­lio game, the lat­ter was down 24.6 per­cent, while its rival lost even more, 27.3 per­cent. If you are an Ivy alum, this might seem a good moment to donate to your alma mater, to help rebuild its bat­tered port­fo­lio. But should you, giv­en the pow­er of edu­ca­tion to improve people’s lives?

The Argu­ment

Do not donate to Har­vard. To do so is to offer more pie to a port­ly fel­low while the gaunt and hun­gry press their faces to the win­dow (at some sort of metaphor­ic col­lege cafe­te­ria, any­way). Even after last year’s loss­es, Harvard’s endow­ment exceeds $26 bil­lion, the largest of any Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ty, greater than the G.D.P. of Esto­niaBy con­trast, among his­tor­i­cal­ly black col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, Howard has the largest endow­ment, about $420 mil­lion, a mere 1.6 per­cent the size of Harvard’s. (Donors gave Har­vard more than $600 mil­lion just this fis­cal year.) The best-endowed com­mu­ni­ty col­lege,Valen­cia, in Orlan­do, Fla., has around $67 mil­lion, or 0.26 per­cent of Harvard’s wealth. This is not to deny that Har­vard does fine work or could find ways to spend the mon­ey but to assert that oth­er schools have a greater need and a greater moral claim to your benev­o­lence…  More here.

The Book That Changed Your Life

This week, This Amer­i­can Life aired an episode that tells “sto­ries of peo­ple who believe a book changed their life.” (Click here, scroll down the page a lit­tle, and then click on “Full Episode.”) It’s a good pro­gram for book lovers, but don’t expect to hear about Shake­speare, Dos­to­evsky, or Salinger. This Amer­i­can Life does­n’t quite do things that way. They have their own unique take on things. But if you want a more tra­di­tion­al list of life-alter­ing books, then check out this col­lec­tion cre­at­ed by our read­ers and feel free to add your own books to the com­ments. The more, the mer­ri­er.

Fol­low us on Face­book and Twit­ter, where we tweet and re-tweet extra cul­tur­al good­ies that nev­er make it to the blog.

Stanford Students Set Record with Model Plane

Put a bunch of Stan­ford grad­u­ate stu­dents togeth­er. Give them 10 weeks to build a mod­el air­plaine, and what do you get? A world record at 7,000 feet — some­thing it might cost NASA mil­lions to do.

When The Wall Comes Tumbling Down: History on YouTube

The Berlin Wall and the Iron Cur­tain col­lapsed a lit­tle more than 20 years ago (August 1989). And even though I watched the events on TV, my mem­o­ry of it all has already start­ed to fade. But that’s where YouTube comes in. Above, a quick refresh­er that makes my day. This clip comes from a larg­er col­lec­tion called 101 His­tor­i­cal Moments You Can Relive on YouTube. Thanks for the heads up on this one.

Justice: Putting a Price Tag on Life & How to Measure Pleasure

Har­vard has rolled out Week 2 of Michael Sandel’s course on Jus­tice. Cour­tesy of the course web site, here’s a syn­op­sis of what you can expect from Episode 2. New lec­tures are get­ting rolled out week­ly. Check the Har­vard web site for new addi­tions.

Part 1 — PUTTING A PRICE TAG ON LIFE: Sandel presents some con­tem­po­rary cas­es in which cost-ben­e­fit analy­sis was used to put a dol­lar val­ue on human life. The cas­es give rise to sev­er­al objec­tions to the util­i­tar­i­an log­ic of seek­ing “the great­est good for the great­est num­ber.” Is it pos­si­ble to sum up and com­pare all val­ues using a com­mon mea­sure like mon­ey?

Part 2 — HOW TO MEASURE PLEASURE: Sandel intro­duces J. S. Mill, a util­i­tar­i­an philoso­pher who argues that seek­ing “the great­est good for the great­est num­ber” is com­pat­i­ble with pro­tect­ing indi­vid­ual rights, and that util­i­tar­i­an­ism can make room for a dis­tinc­tion between high­er and low­er plea­sures. Sandel tests this the­o­ry by play­ing video clips from three very dif­fer­ent forms of enter­tain­ment: Shakespeare’s Ham­let, the real­i­ty show Fear Fac­tor, and The Simp­sons.

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Princeton Students Pan the Kindle DX

Ear­li­er this year, Ama­zon rolled out the Kin­dle DX. This new, super­sized e‑book read­er had one basic goal: to give read­ers dig­i­tal access to text­books, news­pa­pers and oth­er larg­er for­mat pub­li­ca­tions. This fall, the rub­ber has start­ed to hit the road, and the Kin­dle DX has been get­ting tepid reviews, at least at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. There, stu­dents in three class­es (Civ­il Soci­ety and Pub­lic Pol­i­cy, U.S. Pol­i­cy and Diplo­ma­cy in the Mid­dle East, and Reli­gion and Mag­ic in Ancient Rome) were giv­en free Kin­dles, and then start­ed work­ing with them. Accord­ing to the Dai­ly Prince­ton­ian, many of the 50 stu­dents par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pilot pro­gram said that “they were dis­sat­is­fied and uncom­fort­able with the devices.” One stu­dent had this to say:

I hate to sound like a Lud­dite, but this tech­nol­o­gy is a poor excuse of an aca­d­e­m­ic tool. It’s clunky, slow and a real pain to oper­ate. … Much of my learn­ing comes from a phys­i­cal inter­ac­tion with the text: book­marks, high­lights, page-tear­ing, sticky notes and oth­er marks rep­re­sent­ing the impor­tance of cer­tain pas­sages — not to men­tion mar­gin notes, where most of my paper ideas come from and inter­ac­tion with the mate­r­i­al occurs… All these things have been lost, and if not lost they’re too slow to keep up with my think­ing, and the ‘fea­tures’ have been ren­dered use­less.

These feel­ings were shared not just by stu­dents, but by pro­fes­sors as well. For more, I’d encour­age you to give the Dai­ly Prince­ton­ian piece a read.

Thanks to Bob for the tip, which comes via a men­tion in Engad­get. We love tips. Keep them com­ing.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.