Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Areas of My Dilettantism

As everyone knows by now, I went to UC Irvine for college, majoring in English literature and political science. UC Irvine is on a quarter system, so a term is exactly 10 weeks, and then you have the final. This makes for rapid course turnover, and so you end up covering a lot of ground in four years, especially if you take different subjects per course rather than courses set up to be taught in thematic sequential series. I did honors in both programs, and so at least 1/4 of my classes in each major were taken up by honors seminars designed to train me in scholarly research and writing and workshop my own research. I also had some general education requirements, and took a fair number of classes in other departments (anthropology, art history, philosophy) just because they seemed interesting. I also made college purposefully hard on myself by taking classes in varied subjects within my majors, to "challenge" myself, and did things like learn Latin from scratch rather than continue on with Spanish.

The result was that I got as close to a broad liberal arts education as one could in a large, modestly ranked, public university. Another result is that I have no specialized knowledge in anything, and so know a lot of different things shallowly and dilettantishly.

Hmm, if I could do college all over again, what would I have done differently

I would have probably majored in economics rather than political science. I would have gone higher in statistics. I would have done only public law/political theory rather than try to do a mini-concentration in public law/political theory and international relations if I had stuck with political science. I would have concentrated more in the English lit major, say taking mostly Anglo American modernist fiction courses apart from my breadth requirements, rather than all those weird post-colonial lit classes I took in a fit of college po-mo fervor. Or even Victorianist literature. But I definitely didn't get much out of about half of my courses.

I've had cause to review my college transcript recently, and here are classes that I vaguely remember taking and not retaining much of what I learned, or ever really using it in a fun cocktail party conversation way, or were classes that were best saved till later:

-Asian American Literature and Film (especially since I'm now not into po-mo, po-co stuff anymore)
-Pope and Swift (ugh)
-Biomedical Ethics and Law (A+, but dude, I have never even talked about this stuff, not even at the height of Schiavo, and it was taught so poorly!)
-Latin American Literature
-Intro to Anthropology (any intro course is wasted on a non-major)
-Intro to International Relations (I was a major, but this was a waste of time)
-United Nations and International Organizations (total waste of time)
-U.S. Foreign Policy in Asia
-Anthropology of Women and the Body (it was all deconstruction, little construction)
-Cyberlaw (dude, taking any "law" class in undergrad is a waste of time)
-3rd World Women Writers
-Computer Research in the Social Sciences (I hate requirements!)
-Most of my senior thesis workshops and research seminars
-ALL of my intro Humanities classes adn ALL of m intro political science classes.

Classes outside my comfort zone I actually sometimes use and think about even though at the time I was plodding through them:

-Literature of Empire
-Jewish Nationalism and Literature
-Romanesque Art and Architecture
-Philosophy of Ethics
-Homer to Renaissance
-Renaissance to Romanticism
-Epic Literature
-Harlem/Sophiatown Renaissance Literature
-Political Economy
-Women Novelists and Feminist Criticism
-All of my Latin courses, even if I can't translate Latin anymore

Classes that remain useful today:

Civil Liberties
-Law and Society
-All of my statistics courses

I think this means that I could have skipped about half of college and fared no worse, and maybe better. But that's always the case. There are always ways to do things better, the benefit of hindsight for determining what was worthy and going-forward useful is no benefit. It is what it is.

I still kind of wish that all the liberal arts colleges I got into had given me full rides. I mean, I went to college during the budget crisis and I still got full funding, so what's up with that?


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