Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Feelings on Humanities

My class was asked to read On The Uses of a Liberal Education as Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students by Mark Edmundson, and As a Weapon: In the Hands of the Restless Poor by Earl Shorris. Both works talk about (one more directly than the other) liberal arts in education.

I read As a Weapon: In the Hands of the Restless Poor first, which made me confused. I thought it was supposed to be about liberal arts and its place in American education. Instead, it focused more on how the humanities specifically are important in American education. The piece opens up with the author, Earl Shorris, speaking with a woman in prison named Niecie about what makes a person poor. 

“Why do you think people are poor?”
“You’ve got to teach the moral life of downtown to the children. And the way you do that, Earl, is by taking the downtown to plays, museums, concerts, lectures, where they can learn the moral life of downtown.”
“And then they won’t be poor anymore?”
“And then they won’t be poor no more.” (50-51)

I think this is extremely true. Everyone needs some culture, no matter your social status, income levels, gender, race, or age. I was first introduced to this cultural experience by my 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Cooper (whom I've blogged about before). When I was in 10th grade, I took a mythology class with her, and that's when I first learned "the moral life of downtown" as Nieceie calls it.

Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in NYC
I took several field trips during the year with my mythology class. First we went to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. Growing up Jewish and going to Hebrew school, I was used to going to a small synagogue and occasionally small churches for weddings or baptisms. But that church...that was an experience. We walked around every square foot of the church, climbed to the top, took the tour, I felt so much smarter by the time we left. 

Next we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Unicorn Tapestries and again, it was really cool. The artwork in the museum was beautiful and as we took the tour around the museum, the tour guide taught us a little bit about each piece or made us see something that we didn't see before. Because we went to both of these places in the same day, we were all cultured-out at the end; but after this day, any time I could go into a city and "learn the moral life of downtown," I did. 

Unicorn Tapestry

Last year, my yearbook advisor offered me the chance to go see the opera Karmin with is AP European history class. Of course I said yes, I'd never been to an opera before. We sat in the very last row at the top (talk about nose bleeds) in Lincoln Center, and even though it was hard to read the subtitles on the seat in front of mine while watching the actors sing in Italian at the same time, the entire experience was new and unique. 

Afterwards, my friends and I talked about how "cultured" we were, and agreed to meet up in the city in the future to do something like this again. However until I read this article, I hadn't even considered how lucky I was to have these experiences. It hadn't crossed my mind that many Americans will never get the opportunity to visit the places I've visited. 

How we felt after seeming Karmin.

I was really happy to read at the end of the article that the people who completed the course had continued their education, or gone to nursing school. The whole thing reminded me of a movie I watched a few years ago called Freedom Writers.

On the other hand, I didn't like reading On The Uses of a Liberal Education as Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students by Mark Edmundson. Edmundson talks about how most of his students are not passionate and how "strong display of emotion is forbidden." He writes: “You’re inhibited, except on ordained occasions, from showing emotion, stifled from trying to achieve anything original. You’re made to feel that even the slightest departure from the reigning code will get you genially ostracized" (42). 

I don't feel this way at all. Or at least not in Ithaca. Everyone seems passionate here--I know I sure am. So when this guy writes about how we're all (we as in college students) clones who possess no motivation, consumed by pop culture and consumerism...I get annoyed. I like pop culture, and I recognize that I am a consumer and that people are always and will always be trying to get me to buy stuff, but I choose to ignore it. I am very passionate about what I do and I put a lot of hard work into it. Students at this school are pushed to be creative (especially in my seminar class) and encouraged to be original. So, as a student trying to do both of those things, I have to strongly disagreed with Mark Edmundson. 



No comments:

Post a Comment