Swarthmore College

Oh God, I’m On the General Education Committee: A Game



There are 20 courses in the deck, each associated with a particular general-education philosophy. All players secretly draw one of those philosophies. Your team membership should not be disclosed to other players. 

Each round, two players will draw a card. They should read the name and description of their course and the general-education philosophy it is associated with. Certain courses are associated with or acceptable to more than one philosophy. 

Each player must make either make a case in one minute or less for the course they’ve drawn or attack the other course as unsuitable for a general education requirement. They may not attack the course that they drew. 

Open Curriculum team members can never advocate any course, only attack. 

After each player makes their case in the round, all players will vote. They may either vote for one course or vote no on both courses. The objective is to get a course acceptable to your team passed as a requirement or to block the courses of teams that are unacceptable to your team. After six rounds, the game is over. If no courses have been adopted as requirements up to that point, all remaining courses in the deck (8 courses) are adopted as requirements. If at least one course has been adopted, that stands as the requirement (in addition to any others required). 

Voters cannot explicitly make quid pro quo promises, but voting for a course that is acceptable to your team if not desired can be a way to signal a hope that the other teams will vote in your favor in the next round–and avoiding the uncertainty of having eight classes chosen that might be negative. 

Open Curriculum players win if only one and no other courses are adopted as requirements. Iconoclastic Reasoning players win if they get at least one course adopted. 


Everyone else wins on points:


-1 for a single class from your enemy teams.

-4 for more than two classes from your enemy teams.

-10 for more than two classes from your enemy teams


+ 1 for a single class from your team or allied courses

+4 for two classes from your team or allied courses

+10 for more than two classes from your team or allied courses


DECK 1: The Western Tradition 


Western Philosophy I: From Plato to Descartes

  • This course reviews the history of Western philosophy from classical Greek thinkers (Plato and Aristotle) to medieval and Christian thinkers (Augustine, Thomas Aquinas) and then to Renaissance humanists.

History of the Novel: Thomas Hardy, Thomas Mann, Thomas Pynchon

  • Students will be introduced to the novel through three classic writers named Thomas. 

The American Founding Fathers (SHARED CULTURE)

  • Students will study the major thinkers of the American revolution and early American republic, including Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, Hamilton, Adams, Madison, as well as the influence of Locke, Montesquieu and Burke. 

Opposes: Ethics, Justice, Democracy; World of Tomorrow


DECK 2: A Shared Culture

I Sing the Body Electric: Sexuality and Gender in American Poetry (ETHICS, JUSTICE)

  • Students will learn about the distinctive ways Americans have engaged sexuality and gender in their poetic tradition, including work by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsburg, Adrienne Rich, Hilda Doolittle, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, and others.  

Fight No More Forever: Land in the American Imagination

  • Students will study how Americans have thought of, lived on and struggled over land from the pre-Colombian era to the present. Includes struggles between European settlers and Native Americans; slavery and plantations; internal migrations and immigration; urbanization and rural life; farming, ranching and mining; conservation and the National Park system; environmentalism. 

Another Lost Cause? American Politics at the Movies

  • Students will study both how politics has been represented in American films and how American films have been a subject of political contention during the 20th Century. Films studied include Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, All the King’s Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Norma Rae, All the President’s Men, The Manchurian Candidate, Do the Right Thing, The Right Stuff, Dave, Milk, Malcom X, Being There, 1776, and Bob Roberts

The Gig Economy: American Labor, 1990-2019  (PREPARED FOR TOMORROW)

  • Students will study contemporary transformations of labor in the United States, leading into the mid-21st Century. Topics include the decline of the union movement, the rising importance of higher education, the rise of the tech industry, crowdsourced economies, the defunding of public goods, and the coming of automation. 

Opposes: Skills, Iconoclastic


DECK 3: Skills, Skills, Skills

Quantitative Reasoning

  • Students will be introduced to a broad range of applied quantitative reasoning skills, including statistics, probability, algorithmic design, and econometrics. 

Introduction to College Writing 

  • Students will be introduced to successful writing approaches across the curriculum suitable for college-level composition. 

Visual Literacy and Data Visualization 

  • Students will be introduced to basic aspects of visual literacy, including art history, graphic design, and film theory. Students will also explore data visualization and the interpretation of visual materials in scientific publications. 

Logic and Reasoning (WESTERN TRADITION)

  • Students will be introduced to formal logic and to key features of reasoned analysis and argument. 

Opposes: Shared Culture, Iconoclastic


DECK 4: Iconoclastic Requirements

Introduction to Technology (PREPARED FOR TOMORROW)

  • Students will learn technological literacy: how to understand technological systems and objects, the history of technologies, technological design. 

Mindfulness and Meditation (SKILLS)

  • Students will learn practices of mindfulness, meditation and self-care. 

How to Survive the Apocalypse: Prepper Techniques

  • Students will learn to prepare for possible societal and natural catastrophes, including shooting and gun safety, food storage and safety, hunting and foraging, measuring radioactive fallout, emergency medicine, and small-group psychology. 

Opposes: Nothing


DECK 5: Prepared for the World of Tomorrow

Introduction to Computational Studies

  • Students will learn the basics of programming, computational problem-solving, algorithmic design, and interdisciplinary methods that employ computation such as topic modelling. 

Introduction to Data Science (SKILLS)

  • Students will learn a variety of techniques for collecting, identifying and analyzing “big data” and practical skills for managing datasets and databases. 

Globalization and Diversity (ETHICS, JUSTICE, DEMOCRACY)

  • Students will learn about the history of economic and cultural globalization and explore how to live successfully in a diverse and globalized world. 

Opposes: Western Tradition, Iconoclastic


DECK 6: Ethics, Justice, Democracy

American Anthropocene: Fighting Climate Change (SHARED CULTURE)

  • Students will examine the distinctive features of the Anthropocene Age in the United States, including why the US is slow to embrace climate change activism. Students will study ways to pursue climate change mitigation and adaptation, including the “Green New Deal”. 

Introduction to Community-Based Learning (SKILLS)

  • Students will learn the important underlying concepts behind community-based learning and engage in a community-based learning project designed by the instructor. 

Inclusive Practices: Allies, Bystanders and Activists (SKILLS)

  • Students will study how to behave in an ethically and just way within a community striving for diversity and inclusion as well as fostering open and civil debate. 

Opposes: Western Tradition, Iconoclastic


The Open Curriculum: Against All Requirements

Open curriculum team members draw a course card but cannot advocate it–they just have to make a case against what is on the other card. They must abstain from voting for any requirement. 

About the Author

Timothy Burke's main field of specialty is modern African history, specifically southern Africa, but he has also worked on U.S. popular culture and on computer games.

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Posts by Timothy Burke