Soak It In

I am a Neil deGrasse Tyson buff.  I’ve read several of his books, follow his current podcast (Star Talk) and own a t-shirt with a NdGT quote and a bracelet that I saw on his website of the planets in order.  (I actually made my own bracelet based on his design and I added Pluto – he may be smart, but Pluto will always be one of my planets!)

One of the things that I admire most is his ability to take difficult concepts and to distill them down so that most of us can understand them.  I was re-listening to his description of how the tides actually work/exist and wondered what it would be like to take a class from him (an entry-level class of course – I’ve encountered some of his work that is NOT distilled down and it is way over my head).

My favorite classes in college were always lectures.  I don’t need any small discussion groups or multi-student projects – just let me sit in the presence of great professors while I soak up their knowledge.  Between Carleton and Metro State I took five Shakespeare courses from two different professors – fabulous.  There was a spellbinding Chinese Middle Kingdom class and the professor who taught my King Arthur in English and American Literature (yes, a real class for which I got credit) held my attention like no other.

But based on YA’s master’s program experience, the current trend in education is all about self-teaching, small group projects and collaboration (I detest this word).  Her description of every single class she took for her MBA made my skin crawl, so I guess I probably won’t be going back to school in my retirement.  I’ll have to remain self-taught in the areas that appeal to me.  I’m still doing my online Italian class; I’m almost at 900 days straight.  I’m still working my way through biographies of the English monarchs as well as the American presidents.  Banned books are high on my list of interests as well as reading on Black Lives Matter.  Science is also a love of mine although I would say I have a broad science curiosity  as opposed to a deep curiosity. 

If I were to take any classes, my first choice would be anything taught by Tyson; it’s possible he could do wonders from my understanding of physics.  Add a course covering the history plays of Shakespeare.  I’d like an economics class that specializes in the real world and does not discuss guns or butter.  Literature courses of just about any kind.  No math (I got through trigonometry by the skin of my teeth) and no classes where anything has to be cut up!  

What were your favorite and least favorite classes in school?   

70 thoughts on “Soak It In”

  1. I am old! I attended a three year RN program way back in the 60s. It was excellent but covered ONLY medicine so after graduating I started taking courses in other subjects to round out my education and ten years later received a Masters i in psychology. After that I started taking classes in outdoors or survival. My least favorite subjects were English lit, in spite of reading is my favorite pastime! My favorite course was on the Okeefenokee Swamp. Since I never had a particular interest in swamps this turned out to be a great surprise. That is a long story in itself!

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Well then, “Arrrrgj! Avast ye, matey!”

    I was an A student in HS and college so I enjoyed most courses I took. HS physics was my most challenging, ergo least favorite. I worked my ass off to get a B. But I learned that physics is a beautiful discipline and explains so much about how the universe works– as well as human interaction in many cases.

    My favorite class was usually band/jazz ensemble since I was a band geek in HS and a music ed. major in college. Also loved a History of Western Civilization course in college. Pure lecture, as VS mentioned, was her favorite form of learning. Just sit in a large hall, and watch the video of the teacher and the slides he showed (1973 folks, the predecessors to PowerPoint).

    That class shaped my worldview into what I still believe today: Organized religion was/still is the greatest threat to peace and true prosperity in the history of the world. Yes, it’s a simplification, but it is inherently true.

    What if a hidden reason that John Lennon was murdered was that he wrote, “Imagine”?

    No heaven? No hell? No countries? No religion? Living life in peace? Blasphemy. And religious saber rattling is intensifying in America, to be sure, and has never dissipated in many regions of the world.

    And of course, if you attended the U of M in the 60s, 70s, or 80s (I think) and had the chance, you probably enjoyed (like I did) Karlis Kaufmanis’s introductory Astronomy class. If you could understand him. 🙂

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I struggled to meet my math and science requirement at Carleton number and for that reason ended up taking introduction to astronomy (called Twinkles). Considering how much I actually love astronomy you’ll be surprised to know that I hated this class. It was technically the kind of class I like where he just talked and talked and talked but he was incredibly dry and boring. Really how can you make astronomy boring. I got through it, but it was a disappointment.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Kaufmanis was quite entertaining, but his lectures were so structured, I don’t believe he ever took questions from students during class. I remember enjoying it but I sure don’t remember much. At least I’m familiar with terms like black holes, dwarfs, giants, etc.


        Liked by 2 people

  3. Well, Bowling as a required PE credit in college was pretty lame. It was the only one I could register for. The teacher was the basketball coach. He spoke to us in the same voice he used with his players in the gymn. I also took swimming, which was practical.

    Loved History, especially art history. I can’t draw or paint or do art at all, but its history was fascinating. I loved my psychology classes, of course. Hated math, but I actually understood statistics. I didn’t like chemistry.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I also liked biology, and got a minor in it. Had I been brave enough to take chemistry, I would have had a triple major in Psychology, Social Work, and Biology. The competition for grad school was keen, and I couldn’t afford to get anything lower than an A-, hence no chemistry class.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s a shame that the need to maintain a high grade point average can, and often does, get in the way of exploring subjects you might be interested in but which have a reputation for being difficult. I was guilty of that, and I regret it.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Aye matey – I remember a couple from college that I really enjoyed – History of Education, as it also tackled problems with our educ. system. I remember enjoying a basic geology class… Both of these had excellent profs.
    Hope I can remember more today… this is pathetic!

    Tomorrow I start Philosophy of Religion (!)… six 2-hour sessions which sounds a bit daunting at this point. But if the professor (emeritus) is good, I’ll go.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ha ha, Barbara, I suppose you’ve seen Chris’s post. I agree with him all the way, though I must admit, I don’t know whether you do or don’t.


  5. It’s your blog, you must do whatever you like. I’d just like to mention that no pirate, no real person, no one in real life, EVER talked like that. Arrrr! Etc.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The only people who talk like that are people who don’t know what a West Country accent sounds like, including West Country people trying to parody their own accent.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. “See how the mainsail bellies in the wind!”

    “What’s that Cap’n? Ooh arr etc”

    “Bellies in the wind!”

    “Oh! Aye aye Cap’n!”

    “Funny orders the Cap’n gives”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Philosophy of Education according to my mother. Now think about this first before you go running off in hysterics.
    She said this would be true if these classes were taught correctly, especially the first.
    1. (Most Important) Phy. Ed. and Health
    2. Reading
    3. Math
    Everything else should relate to the first three.

    Regarding your reaction to collaboration: my son has worked in about every aspect of computer program including middle level management. Now he is an IOS programer. He says the number one failure of tech workers is their failure to collaborate because it all comes back to collaboration. He spends 1/3 of his day in collaboration.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Ahoy!
    Yeah, Where in the world Is Cap’n Billy??

    The cool thing about the stuff I’m doing at the college now is that I only take what sounds interesting to me! It’s just for fun!
    Oh, if I want a degree I have to take some specifics, but even that… I can find something interesting.
    Except math. I’ve talked about that before. Thankfully I don’t need another math class.
    The biggest thing I’m noticing is the teacher. I remember a few years ago, and not even related to a class, but a co-worker, was that if I’m not interested in learning it, it doesn’t matter how good the teacher is.
    And what I’m struggling with in this class, is the teacher is not on this campus, it’s their first time with the class here, and they just copy and post from other classes. Without always catching all the different details. I’m not impressed… It’s an all online class so I’m basically teaching myself.
    I much prefer in person instructors, but that just becomes a matter of my schedule so sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

    Fair Winds to the Muskellunge!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. A good teacher can ease the pain of learning something that I’m not particularly interested in, and conversely, a bad teacher can ruin even subjects I love, unfortunately I’ve had some of both.

      My American History professor at SIU was a disaster. Unfortunately, I didn’t heed a very strong gut feeling I had on the first day of class. There was something about his mannerisms that really rubbed me the wrong way, and I contemplated dropping the class, but talked myself out of it. “Give him a chance,” I told myself, “surely he can’t be that bad.” It was a large lecture hall with 200 or so students, but even so, I couldn’t put enough distance between us, and no amount of doodling could keep me awake.

      On the other hand, my Chemistry professor was delightful. Again, it was a large lecture hall with 200 plus students, and despite the fact that I’m not exactly what you’d call a chemistry whizz, I actually found the class both interesting and fun.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. I’m also reminded that I enjoyed some college music courses, particularly Ear Training, where we had to analyze unique chord progressions – I learned a lot of new info.

    And I did enjoy a high school Western Civ course, and even Civics.

    Least favorite were the harder math and chemistry, but I liked beginning algebra and biology well enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. As a nursing major, I had to take a lot of sciences. I enjoyed anatomy, physiology (except neurophys which was taught by a TA with a difficult accent to understand), and even entry level chemistry (very good teacher). Luckily I didn’t have to take any math classes beyond what I had in HS. Two of my most enjoyable non-nursing classes were Intro to Geology, taught by the wonderful Richard Ojakangas (UMD), and a three quarter Ancient Civilization class. Even though I spent 8 quarters on the main campus of the U of M, I never got to Kaufmanis’ “Star of the East” presentations.

    I would enjoy adult education university classes now as long as no tests or paper writing was involved. I wish I had taken advantage of auditing classes there while I was still an employee at U of M Hospital and Clinics.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. I agree about lectures. I think I learn better that way. I need to go at my own pace and collaboration can be challenging for me. It feels like a lot of pressure.

    I really enjoyed English and English Literature. I also enjoyed an interim class at St. Olaf called Philosophical Ideas in Literature. I loved art history taught by Reidar Dittmann. I loved his classes which were all lecture and slide shows. He told me all the younger students who sat behind me were sound asleep. His exams were based entirely on his lectures, nothing from the texts, so I aced them.

    I also loved vocal training, ear training and choral singing at St. Olaf but I detested music theory. It was too much like math. Music really is a lot like math and I wonder if kids who weren’t good at math were taught some music theory instead, would it help them with math? I’m not an educator but I can’t be the only person who ever wondered that. I think I would have benefited from that.

    Is there an archive somewhere of Cap’n Billy skits?

    Liked by 3 people

  12. My favorite classes in college were photography and Shakespeare. Some of my marketing classes (my major) were really good too. I should’ve stuck to my guns and gone into one of them as a profession.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Like VS, I enjoy reading Neil DeGrasse Tyson, as well as other authors of science topics, like Mary Roach, Ed Yong and Lisa Randall, and journalist historians like Simon Winchester and Erik Larson.

    I did a quick survey of the 54 books I’ve read so far this year and only about 15 of them could be termed fiction. The rest are histories or narratives of some sort with a fair number of biographies and autobiographies, none of which are about presidents, generals or people anyone would consider celebrities, at least not in the last 100 years or more.

    Some of the books I read are ones written by working professors at various institutions and occasionally I’ll send them an email with a comment or question. Most of the time they respond.

    As a studio arts major, most of my favorite classes were ones in that department. It’s not that the instructors were necessarily inspirational, though a few were, but the interaction among the students and the camaraderie was unlike anywhere else on campus that I knew. Most of what we learned, we learned from each other.

    Outside of the studio arts department, the classes that were available and that filled the distribution requirements were a mixed bag. If you were given a late slot for registration, often the classes you ended up with were your second or third choice or even a class you never previously considered. It wasn’t always easy to marshal enthusiasm for those but, with the military draft looming as a consequence, one needed to make the effort to be, at least, good enough.

    Early in the pandemic, while we were sticking close to home, I took several online courses from various universities. Most were free and essentially an audit. They tested but the tests were multiple choice and you were given the option of retaking the test twice. Pretty hard to fail.

    One course, from Harvard’s edX program, I took as a paid, graded course. Its title was “Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You” and it resembled what I imagine a museum curator does: considering, researching, evaluating and interpreting objects for their historicity.

    The course entailed much writing and a fair amount of research—at least the way I did it. I tried to be thoughtful and original and not a little provocative. By provocative, I mean that I often looked for a counterpoint to the interpretation the course presenters seemed to be pushing and offered arguments to support that alternative. In a live class, I like to think that would have led to discussion or at the very least a dialog with the professor. Disappointingly, the course was structured so that “peers” evaluated one’s responses and that proved to be most unsatisfying.

    This is not the question VS posed, but if I could go back in time and choose a different college path, I might go in the direction of American Studies. Certainly a lot of my reading in the last few decades has been in that area. My studio art experiences were valuable in their own way, but the skills I later used professionally were intrinsic and no one has ever requested my art credentials.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I do notice the difference between my frivolous remarks, and the earnest desire of all of you to continually improve your knowledge and insight. I just hate to study. I’ve had one teacher in my life who infused me with a desire to learn anything, my erstwhile Spanish teacher in this village. She almost made Spanish interesting, and kindly pretended to think I was a good student. She and her young family have relocated to Geneva now, but she’s left me with enough material to continually revise for some time to come. But nothing is pushing me to look at it now.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. OT – Don’t know if this link will work if you’re not on Facebook. It’s to this evening’s Peter Ostroushko Memorial concert taking place in Minneapolis this evening. There is currently a short intermission before the second half of the show:

    It’s truly a lovely event.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This is really interesting. I received a message, through email, that BiR had responded to my comment on WP. It showed my comment – including the link that does not appear above – and BiR’s response. I’m wondering if the rest of you can see the link? I can’t.

    At any rate, the memorial concert, held at the Women’s Club in Minneapolis, was truly an emotional tour de force. I hope it was recorded so that it will be available on Youtube or somewhere else.


  17. I always liked Field Biology and various lit classes I took. I liked algebra, but didn’t like geometry. Liked history for the most part. Couldn’t get into phy ed, I was definitely not good at anything physical. Maybe liked archery a little.

    If I had it to do over, I might study something like environmental science, which in the early 70’s seemed impractical. Now, though, it seems like it would have been a good train to hop onto.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also liked home ec pretty well. The school had these nice mini-kitchens, and you’d be assigned to make biscuits or muffins or something. And you’d always have exactly what you needed, spatulas and mixer blades and tins and whatever, clean and waiting for you in the cupboards and drawers.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Anatomy & Physiology during my Physical Education teacher training and ‘ Matthew’ at theological college with the late Dr. R T France- he was exceptional.
    I listened to a lecture recently by Tyson arguing against intelligent design: singularly unconvincing, clever though he is. To accuse scientists who believe a Creator God of invoking ‘God of the gaps’
    in order to compensate for their lack of knowledge and understanding is a ridiculous assertion. Try telling that to Francis Collins head of the Genome project.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.