Welcome to the class
Our purpose for coming to gather here is twofold. Ostensibly, that is according to the catalog, we are here to
read and discuss both fictional and non-fictional prose and prepare related writing assignments, including a substantial research-based argument paper requiring library research and documentation and synthesis of materials gathered from diverse sources into a coherently organized paper.
And this in itself is reason enough for the class. Many of you have probably already been doing this in your AP English courses. Those of you who have never taken an AP class, don’t worry. You’ll be okay.
Most people view this course as “the class where you learn to write a research paper”. And, while this definition is true, it is not really sufficient.
For one thing, there is no single description of a college paper. Your future professors will ask you to do a number of different things in the papers they assign you. You may be asked to classify, explain, argue for a course of action or an interpretation, well who knows what.
But, behind all of these varied activities lie another, deeper set of goals.
One of them is intellectual curiosity. Human beings are naturally curious. Intellectual curiosity is so innate in the human species that it takes twelve years of public education to make us all sufficiently un curious to work the old coal mine, or the macdonalds fryer or whatever.
But intellectual curiosity is necessary for civilization. Without curiosity there can be no great discoveries. Without curiosity and the drive satiate it, there is only anger and fear, blind and mindless ablution before the unpredictable gods of the volcano and the lightening strike.
Why does the lightening strike? and how can we avert its electric power? These are the kind of questions we need to ask if the human race is going to ultimately make it.
But we know how to avert that particular god’s wrath now, with the use of a simple lightening rod. The questions today are much more interesting and complex. How do we best prevent terrorism? What, exactly is the role of police in our society? Why do we seem so prone to violence? It was easier when all you had to do was invent the wheel.
The good news is that human beings are also incredibly diverse. Human knowledge is a mosaic and every human being who has ever lived and whoever will live gets to add to that mosaic.
The goal, then, is to improve on the mosaic design. The work will go on after we have died, but we have an opportunity now to contribute something beautiful to the mosaic…or something ugly. You’re going to contribute either way. You might as well try to make it beautiful.
So what we do in this class may seem random, or pointless at times. But let me assure you they are not. What I’m trying to do is to engage you intellectually and help you discover interesting subjects and ideas. Ultimately, the choice will be yours.
If your biggest concern is merely getting a good grade, then all you need to do is successfully
read and discuss both fictional and non-fictional prose and prepare related writing assignments, including a substantial research-based argument paper requiring library research and documentation and synthesis of materials gathered from diverse sources into a coherently organized paper
However, you also have at your disposal an opportunity to engage your curiosity and contribute your own voice to the great chorus of ideas that stretches from the dawn of history to our own unforeseeable future.