Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Getting technical

I attended my first FlashSem yesterday (it was about Downton Abbey, in case you were wondering). Before leaving the house, I mulled over what I ought to wear and, as it was nippy outside, opted for my comfortable, lazy-day standbys: ¾-sleeve Urban Outfitters shirt with decorative frocket and fitted black yoga pants.

When I arrived in the Newcomb Hall Main Lounge, in all its stately glory, I found myself sitting in a circle with about 15 others -- girls, mostly -- dressed to the nines: tasteful button-up cardigan, skirt and decorative scarf. Is this how humanities majors always dress themselves? (Someone once told me I dress like an art history major. I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but I was flattered.)

As we introduced ourselves, I found that 12 attendees were some permutation of history/English/media studies/politics majors, and 2 were Law students; I was the only non-humanities major. When I introduced myself, I was comfortable and spoke with confidence because, as a fourth-year, I’ve done similar introductions dozens of times. And sure, I might have even been a little proud to have a (relatively) unique major.

And then the discussion began. I felt a little out of place because I haven’t taken a discussion-based class since high school. During the flashsem discussions critiquing various themes and characters in Downton Abbey, all opinions were based on interpretation, and so there was no wrong answer so long as you provide sufficient evidence to defend your theory. When a professor asks a question to the class in my discipline, there is always a correct answer with little (if any) room for interpretation. And if there are multiple avenues through which to arrive at a solution, there is still only one answer: the correct one.

By the end of the hour-and-a-half seminar, I was the only one who hadn’t spoken. I’d always felt like a humanities major tricked into a rather technical one, but this was one of the first times I’d felt truly different. But that’s OK because I’m graduating soon and there will be plenty more opportunities to redeem myself.


  1. your first discussion based class.... since HIGH SCHOOL?! What have you been doing with yourself!? And you're a double major! That completely blew my mind. BLEW it. So you've never been in a college class where you discuss things? Haven't you taken a lit class or anything? Good lord. Fascinating. Even here they make STEM people take humanities classes, and vice versa, but that's a liberal arts college things. wow.

  2. We have to take a certain number of humanities electives, but I placed out of all of them with IB credits from IB English and Topics. The only electives I took were either math- or engineering-related. Also, Engineering students get last priority for humanities classes -- which are hard enough to register for people in those majors -- so that's really unfortunate.

  3. I just read this aloud my my friends, and their minds were also blown. That's so sad you can never get into humanities classes. You totally could have spoken up, it would have been fine. I want an email with details about what people said about DA.