Monday, June 23, 2014

The Past is not in the Past

As promised in yesterday's blog, here I am again to inform you about my first day adventures in class (Cornell's renowned Freedom and Justice summer course by Professor Kramnick).  For today's blog, I'd thought it would be nice to stick with my adventures in class as other events are becoming quite habitual -- eating, sleeping, and walking. I'm sure you're getting tired of these activities as much as I am. 

Finally found the building amidst all the construction.
Anyways, for an overview of today's class, what  can I say. It was absolutely great. After finding the Goldwyn Smith building covered in construction, Kevin, Carla, Natalie and I took a seat in our lecture hall. Being almost half and hour early to class, we got to beat the rest of the crowd and acquire front seats. To make this class even better, not only are we taught by one of the best professors on campus, but we also have a relatively small class size -- only thirty two people in total. In fact, this is smaller than some of my high school classes. Professor Kramnick offered us an overview of the course and told us why we are studying authors from the past. As I've heard many people say, "Why study history if everything happened in the past?" And some are even smart enough to quote a line from Frozen's song "Let it Go," "The past is in the past!" It's definitely not a bad question. And in fact, I've asked this too, but today, I received an answer. If you've wondered the same, well I've found the answer thanks to Professor Kramnick. Well, it's because history and philosophy is all about connecting what writers in the past have said with the present and how ideas in the past have shaped or is shaping life today. 
Some of the notes I took for the day. Still working on perfecting my note-taking skills.
What I've realized about college is that professors lecture, but TAs answer the majority of the questions, clarify the main topics from class, and even grade our papers and final exams. Hence, the professor only spends about an hour lecturing while the TA spends twice the amount of time discussing our course work in the from of discussions. The class was split in half alphabetically and my TA's name is Vijay, who is a graduate student specializing in political science. After introducing ourselves and going over the basics of the discussion sessions, we headed to lunch at the Trillium. On our way back, we got lost. I wouldn't have mind getting lost in this beautiful campus if I did not have class in the next five minutes. However, since we allocated some extra time in case we did get lost, (Thank Goodness!) we were allowed to return to our writing workshop led by Vijay just in time. 

Our impromptu writing question was "According to you, what is freedom?" To answer this question, I took the rather unconventional route. I had argued that there is no such thing as total freedom and structured my essay around this claim. For evidence, I had used the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln and argued how even though slaves in America were freed after the Civil War, discrimination in the form of Black Codes were still persistent. Also, though you may be completely "free," even if there aren't laws or rules governing your actions, you still aren't free of your conscience. Your conscience helps decide what's right and what's wrong. So technically your mind for the most part prevents you from making morally unjustifiable decisions. Hence, since I took this nontraditional route of attacking this question, I was able to add to the discussion by offering new and unique ideas to the table. And because of this, I was able to make myself stand out in the crowd and hopefully was able to make a good impression in the discussion session.
Walked to the Cornell Store after class to get souvenirs.
 I'm really excited for this class as I'm not only learning about philosophy or history, but also how the world around me is shaped around those two fields. Though I generally consider myself a math and science kind of person, I am very glad I stepped outside my comfort zone and took this class because I'm expanding my horizons and receiving great experience by contributing during discussions and by learning to take proper notes during lectures. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow such diligent students! Glad to see you're all working hard! Definitely find a time to explore, Cornell 's a huge campus haha