Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fake Freshman Studies Curricula

Hey everyone,

Now that we're finally done with real Freshman Studies, I thought it would be an interesting idea to see what some of us might do if we were given the chance to design Freshman Studies curricula ourselves.  The works you pick should be things that aren't already on the Freshman Studies list, they should be as diverse as the official list, but not necessarily in the same way.  You should pick things not just because you like them or would want to share them with students, but because they'd actually teach students something widely applicable.  The "message" or "teaching" students are supposed to get from your work should be suitably non-traditional.  You should definitely flaunt the guidelines any legitimate institution would impose, and you should by all means include joke entries.  You are encouraged to give your reasoning for including the works you did, but don't feel obliged to.  These things are generally obvious anyway; unless people are unfamiliar with the works (and hopefully we are - if not, you'ren't being creative and esoteric enough!).

My list:
Essays 1-3 of Pragmatism, by William James - James provides the most helpful and basic values for philosophical discourse out there.  Should be good fodder for discussion itself, as well.
Select poems by Billy Collins - Accessible poetry about interesting things.

Deloused in the Comatorium, by the Mars Volta - Very talented musicians who create really innovative art by combining many traditions and idioms.  Deals with serious metaphysical and social issues in a very creative and genuine way.

Collapse, by Jared Diamond - Shows with vivid, clear, scientific metaphor the way humanity is about to kill itself.  Vital knowledge for everyone to possess, when they will soon be putting themselves in positions of power and influence in society.

Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbott - Introduces multi-dimensionality to students who (unless they've had decent educations like most of my fellow Lawrentians did) have never experienced it before.  It's also extremely well-written and a hell of a lot of fun.

Amelie - Beautiful and very creative exploration of important themes in social relationships and personal life. 

The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers - Exemplary playfulness with language and with a whole slew of creative ideas - maybe not the most traditional ideas for "academic discourse."  Also the most fun, and very well written.

Select stories by Donald Barthelme - Very droll, funny post-modern fiction, in the style of Borges and Kafka.

Bata Ketu, by Michael Spiro et al - Combines a variety of world music traditions to make a very catchy and poppy album without sacrificing authenticity.

Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez - Gives the most beautiful sense of the vastness and complexity of the world.  This is a vital attitude for college students and everyone else to have. 

I've tried to only pick things that are models of aesthetic style (primarily in writing), present obvious, important "messages," and are a LOT of fun.