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Pirates Course at University of Chicago Popular for Spring

CHICAGO — If you were looking for more proof that pirates are popular, here’s some news from the University of Chicago: More undergraduates registered for the anthropology class "Intensive Study of a Culture: Pirates" than almost any other course for the spring quarter, which began March 30.

"As eggheady as our students are, they also are very much of their generation and in touch with mainstream culture," said assistant anthropology professor Shannon Lee Dawdy, who teaches the class.

But don’t expect this will be all Johnny Depp, all the time.

Students in the class, a first-time offering, will study traditional Caribbean pirates as well as contemporary software piracy and "pirates" such as Bernard Madoff, who recently pleaded guilty to defrauding thousands of investors.

The class also will take a trip to the Field Museum’s "Real Pirates" exhibit.

"It is almost too fun for the University of Chicago, so I will make sure they read a bit of theory every week," Dawdy said.


The top three classes requested by University of Chicago students are an eclectic mix. Global warming topped the list, with 377 students requesting the course. Introduction to Microeconomics, taught by popular professor Allen Sanderson, was next, followed by a hands-on drama course.

"One never knows" which classes will be popular, said Michael Jones, an associate dean at the college.
To avoid sinking students’ dreams of learning about pirates, Dawdy increased the size of her class to 150 students, up from the original maximum of 90.
As of Tuesday, all but one spot had been taken.
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