How A Philosophy Course Based On ‘The 100’ Came To Be At Carnegie Mellon

By George Fox @GeorgeJFox

When the name of a TV show appears in the title of a required course in your college major … it gets your attention. Even more-so for the show’s fans and creators.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences is offering “Freshman Seminar: Philosophy and The 100” for the fall 2015 term. The Pittsburgh school is tied for #25 among National Colleges in 2015 as ranked by US News.

Executive Producer of “The 100” Jason Rothenberg noticed the course and wanted to know more.

Freelance writer, alumn and daughter of a CMU professor Madelyn Glymour is a big fan of the show. She was recently re-watching the show with her mom and sister and the idea of a college course was born.

Associate Teaching Professor Mara Harrell decided to make it a reality.

Harrell explained her decision to use sci-fi subject matter in an email, “Really good science fiction is a genuine reflection of the human condition, and the way that the people think and behave resonates with its readers.”

Why is “The 100” a particularly good show to use for philosophical debate?

“… the show presents a wide array of ethical and socio-political dilemmas that are just the kinds of questions with which college students as they engage in personal discovery,” Harrell wrote.

Specifically Harrell could ask if the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for any crime on the Ark or “Should Clarke have agreed to have Bellamy torture Lincoln? In war, are there any actions that are off-limits? How should the 100 set up their society?”

The course description starts off with a quote from one of the show’s key characters. “Bellamy: ‘Who we are and who we need to be to survive are two very different things.'”

The demand for the course was above average. It was fully enrolled in less than a day with some students put on a waitlist. “… I don’t think it filled up as fast as this one did.” wrote Harrel of a similar course not anchored in a single TV show.

Rothenberg Tweeted his willingness to participate in the students’ learning.

Would Harrell oblige the offer? “Yes, I would love to have him do a guest lecture,” she wrote.

Related: ‘The 100′ Executive Producer Jason Rothenberg Has Motor City Roots

In a six degrees-type connection, one of the show’s writers Javi Grillo-Marxuach attended a different CMU course taught by Madelyn Glymour’s dad Clark Glymour years ago.

The class will focus exclusively on the show, but the books aren’t off the table according to Harrell.

Harrell has taught Philosophy and The Matrix in the past, but a single TV show is a first. “In Philosophy and Science Fiction, we discuss many TV shows, including Star Trek, Black Mirror, Orphan Black, and movies including Her, Ender’s Game, The Minority Report, The Impostor, and 12 Monkeys,” wrote Harrell.

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