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Archive for September 5th, 2008

Another beginning

Since British History 101 is primarily about learning, I thought it’d be relavent to post my thoughts on the start of the fall academic semester, which began on Tuesday (Wednesday for me).

I started the day off with “Beginning Piano for Non-Music Majors II” (Read: “Piano for people who don’t really understand it all that well). This semester I am not in a classroom which has been provided with electronic pianos, and thus we have no headphones to allow us to block out our classmates and listen to ourselves play. Hearing 10 people all play the same thing out of time, with plenty of mistakes, is quite an exercise in patience (even more so for the instructor, I suspect). Yet again I have a brilliant instructor who is probably going to make quite a life for herself playing the piano. Being at one of the top two music schools in the United States does have its advantages.

A few hours later, I found myself in a packed lecture hall for a course on medieval heroes. This course was one of many on a list of “pick some of these to meet your requirements” for the history major, and naturally I was attracted. Having survived three years of university I expected this course to be small, intimate, and intended for group discussion. I could not have been more wrong. As it turns out, the course is cross-listed to fulfill a freshmen requirement! Out of 150 students in the course, approximately 90% are freshmen. This forces the instructor to spend quite a bit of time explaining the study of history and why and how we do it. The only downside to that is I’ve already heard it many, many times, back when I was as fresh as these other students! I should hope that I know how to study history in my fourth (and last) year of undergraduate work.

One annoying (but ultimately humourous) aspect of university lectures is this idea which has been fostered that just being at university means one can skillfully debate anything, anytime, with whomever one wishes. When this idea goes sour, it usually manifests itself with someone who has had a course (perhaps two) on a general topic attempting to debate some specialized, technical concept with a professor who’s studied it for years and years and years. Wednesday’s first medieval heroes lecture featured one of these gentlemen, who was roundly defeated by Professor Shopkow to the sound of embarrassed groans by the rest of us. Good show, old boy, but really let’s leave the fine details to those who know, shall we?

All in all, it should be an enjoyable semester, with plenty of writing to be done. I have already received an assignment on Barbara Rosenwein’s A Short History of the Middle Ages and the Passion of Sts. Felicity and Perpetua; if this work is indicative of the rest of the semester’s efforts, it will be time well-spent indeed.

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