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Please Don’t Take This FC: In Remembrance of Great Books, Fall 2018

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Edited by: Lasya Adiraj

Disclaimer: This piece is purely anecdotal, written light-heartedly, and is not intended to offend any person, institution, or ideology.

The year was 2018, my first year of college. I’d come to campus, feeling a little skeptical about taking foundation courses — FCs as they’re oh so fondly called — in my first semester. I had zero enthusiasm to spare for them and I must admit my utter lack of knowledge on FCs took much of the precedence in explaining my apathy. I had a carefully-illustrated plan in my head on what I wanted to do in college and FCs were not it. I begrudgingly accepted this minor (read: horrendously major) change in plan if only for the fact that I could do whatever I wanted after gritting my teeth through seven semester-long headaches – oops, I mean, FCs. 

One of my first FCs at Ashoka was Great Books with Professor Burgers. I’d been an avid reader in my school years, with a collection mainly including genres of young-adult fiction and science fiction. I figured they’d probably serve as a strong foundation and would be a great way of transitioning into college-level reading — please save your laughter at my naivety for the end of this sentence — and boy, was I wrong. Let me present to you my primary source of conflict: a seemingly harmless paragraph of about 150 to 200 words from a text, lulling me into a state of believing I am perfectly capable of comprehending it in less than a minute. I most definitely could not comprehend it in less than a minute. In fact, I would spend hundreds of minutes poring over that one pesky paragraph before I’d promptly give up and binge-watch Modern Family for the umpteenth time. 

Forgive my indiscretion but I had to wonder, what was the point of Great Books as an FC? Throughout the semester, you’d (probably) read a couple of texts that you’ll never think about once you’ve finished writing that final exam. I mean, sure, there are some fundamental changes in the way you think and perceive the world that you can’t quite comprehend (How could that possibly have happened?). You have now become somewhat attuned to finding common grounds for similarities and distinctions among texts that seem wildly different from each other (What sorcery!). And, you finally have a name for that self-consciousness you feel as a person belonging to a minority group walking down a street full of upper-caste Hindu men spaced every two meters. Something like dual- no, double consciousness. How insignificant! Such insubstantial pieces of information lurking in the conscious mind!

The nightmare continues. About a little more than half of the lecture sessions began with a quiz. A quiz! As if we’re preposterous procrastinators who do not read the text before coming to class. Sometimes, you even find apparently delightful puns in your questions. The horror! Case in point:

Q. What did Jon Snow know?

A. Nothing!

Pray, tell me, how are the poor 1% of the population that hasn’t watched a single episode of Game of Thrones supposed to know who Jon Snow is? I, of course, assumed it to be a spelling error and wrote a paragraph on the pioneering work of John Snow in disease mapping during the cholera outbreak of 1854 in London. Where is the seriousness? I was promised austerity and severeness by my teachers in high school and not such light-hearted methods of teaching!

I don’t mean to cause alarm but students who identify with the Catholic faith, hesitate before you opt for this course. Not only will you realize your own lack of awareness of the Bible but you’ll also be forced to acknowledge the critical inconsistencies in its text, especially in the creation stories described in the Book of Genesis. Can you imagine the catastrophic consequences of such acknowledgment? What would happen to the future of the Church if people were to glean meaning and purpose and attempt to affirm their faith through a literal reading of the Bible? This is, after all, a college course on Great Books. The kind of critical perspective students assume after class ultimately boils down to that of the five or so people who speak up. How dare they try to cull our creative freedom in critically analyzing a text and attempt to glorify one view! I am seething with indignation. 

Also, I know this is a course on Great Books but are only books rife with incomprehensible text nominated to be Great Books at the college level? Particularly the works of Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx. Who are these people and why do they write in such a manner that demands cognitive abilities beyond that of average human beings? How deeply humbli- I mean, hubristic! Surely, they could have represented their ideas in a manner befitting the aesthetic complexity of linguistics in the 21st century. If only Kant had said, “This proposition’s got good vibes, man” as opposed to the boring “This proposition is valid.” If only the teaching team had translated it to be as much, I’d most definitely have gotten an A in Great Books. It’s a shame, I tell you. 

I earnestly request you to reserve your FC seat for something fantastic. Honestly, Great Books with Professor Burgers just doesn’t make the cut. It would only serve to change your life and your perception of reality. How trivial a matter, I must say.

Absolutely inconsequential, am I right?

Rhea Thomson

Ashoka '21

That one person who just made the cut. Also an aspiring psychologist.
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