Monday, August 30, 2010

What does it mean to study the humanities?

Edmundson 19-21

I was immediately struck by this section in the book because as an English major, I tend to receive criticism from my friends whose studies revolve around math or the sciences. I find it difficult to understand where the criticism is coming from because I do not feel that I am doing less work than my peers nor that am I learning less.

Seeing Edmundson’s argument that the program was changed to entice students to study the humanities surprised me. I do not feel that I am graded more easily here than in other classes but rather that my limits are pushed because I am forced to think critically not just repeat information I have been told. I also find that the program that I am following, while it allows for some choice in classes and professors, has a rather set structure and classes that are mandatory for all similar majors as well as some classes that must be taken in succession. This is similar to majors across campus.

Why is it that you chose this major over others that are more “success-ensuring?” Do you feel that the restrictions are looser or that you are graded more easily in these classes compared to those you have taken in other content areas? Do you agree with Edmundson’s idea that the ability to choose courses and professors gives the students a power over teachers?

-- Sally Lennon


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  2. I agree with you on Edmundson's claims about students of the humanities. From what I have seen in my college career,having more freedom to choose between different classes and professors doesn't really give students power over their professors. Honestly, most of the time I, personally, don't have much of a choice between classes/instructors because I still have to fit one class from a specific group into my schedule for a specific semester in order to graduate on time. I mean, I guess technically I have a choice, but when it comes down to it I almost never end up with much of one. If I just chose whichever class I thought would be the easiest and most enjoyable every semester, as Edmundson seems to believe is what students do when selecting classes, I would probably be in school for a lot longer. Therefore, I think Edmundson clearly fails to see things from a student's perspective - at least in any way that is realistic. He ignores the fact that many students have greater concerns in mind than just one class within their college careers when they are choosing what they want to take.

  3. Although I think Edmundson is being too overt about universities and departments "competing with one another for students" by easing up on grades and widening elective leeway, I do also believe that some of the comments he makes are valid. Maybe because I'm majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology along with English, I can see the grade differences and the variety of classes offered. For MCB classes, there's a strict set of classes (13 to be exact) you need to take, with no options or leeway whatsoever. For English classes, even some of the required classes have a wide array of classes to choose from (no complaints - it's why I wanted to be an English major too). Even more so, I remember taking an organic chemistry exam, and believe it or not, the averages for each of the 3 exams never exceeded a 45%. Granted science and english are two completely different subjects, but I can say that the grading is more flexible with English classes, because the work done is not merely from strict memorization of facts or problems with only one solution.

    However, I don't fully agree with the fact that the ability to choose courses and professors gives the students a power over teachers, because ultimately, the student must still abide to a teacher's style and teaching. Yes, students can google up teachers or search for them under, but we ultimately abide to the teachers' instructions. We cannot simply write or do as we are willed, but we write following a set of guidelines implemented by someone with authority. I believe Edmundson is very close minded in his arguments, but these arguments are not always so far from the truth.

  4. I agree that Edmundson is close minded, and for the most part, I think his claims are exaggerated and borderline offensive to those who attend college and do not receive a Liberal Arts education. Edmundson writes “literature in general—is the major cultural source of vital options for those who find that their lives fall short of their highest hopes” (pg2-3). Personally, I did not choose a university-level education in English because of some tragic misstep in my life that I was looking for answers to, but more for my own personal enjoyment and fulfillment which I feel should be the motivation to most in regards to higher-level education.

    However, when I read the portion of Edmundson’s argument that, “It was fine to major in economics or political science or commerce, for there you could acquire ways of knowing that didn’t compel you to reveal and risk yourself. There you could stay detached… You could use your education to make yourself rich” (13) to my roommate, she was highly offended. Nowhere in Edmundson’s argument is passion beyond the English major addressed. With the close-mindedness that he delves into his argument, he narrows the audience that will take him seriously.

  5. After reading the novel by Edmundson I believe some of the things he says about students, teachers, and universities. For one, the claims that he make about teachers giving works that are for interest and not to challenge us as readers and students to think beyond what we like and dislike is a good point. I agree that we as readers and students should definitely challenge ourselves to be able to derive and educated opinion about some pieces of literature other than I like it or can or cannot identify with it. Those are basic elementary analysis or what we read and if we are challenging ourselves then we should definitely deriving deeper meaning and opinions about things. On another note I can and do believe that the humanities department which I guess English falls under has lowered there standards....Though I do not believe that majority of the majors we take in college prepare us for things to come because most of the time even though you have went to school and studied a particular field for 4 years you will still need to be trained again for whatever job or career you chose. So as for Edmundson's arguments I have to agree with some of them and take his side.