Posted by Dominique D. | Posted on October 23, 2011
Although I am a senior, this is my first year without math and/or science classes at JHU. I am not pre-med (although I took the premed reqs courses as a Public Health Natural Sciences major), so there is no medical school applying or MCAT taking going on here, thus leading to the termination of my science studies at this here school. Easy time, right? No more late night cramming and sweating and wondering if I know structures or orgo or equations about relativity for physics…woohoooo!!…?
hi liter and multi colored pen have been getting a workout this sem...I hate hi liters that aren't yellow btw
Eh, not quite. All of my classes require me to read long journal articles and books. A LOT. More than I’ve ever had to. In semesters past, I’ve had a mix of science and social science/humanities (which is one of the reasons I love my major)–for instance, 2nd semester freshman year I took Chemistry, Chem Lab, Calc, Psychology, and Intro to Public Health. The following semester I had Spanish, Organic Chem, a 300 level writing intensive Sociology class, and Biostatistics. Always a mix so that I never had too much science and too much reading.
But then at the end of junior year, science wore out my grades and me–so I looked forward to a senior year replete with reading intensive classes, ‘cuz naturally they’d be easier. Durh.
if you were thinking like me, stop right there…don’t hide, you know you were doing it, let’s just keep it 100… ;)
Most people, parents, prospective students like yourselves, etc…know Hopkins as a sciency school and that it’s really hard. Don’t get me wrong, it is. But then because of that, so many think that anything not mathy or sciency or engineery is a walk in the park. IT’S HOPKINS. EVERYTHING REQUIRES WORK. Including reading and writing intensive classes.
Of of the many History of Africa readings
I can’t count how many arguments I’ve had with “major elitists” (this is what I call people who are snobby because they think their major is the hardest, and therefore the zenith of all majors here) about how my major or other majors don’t really matter because they aren’t that science intensive.
To which I reply:
-Why should I care what YOU think about my major, as long as I enjoy it? You chose yours!
-How would you feel having to write several papers a week? Read 300-500+ pages a week and have to actually understand what’s going on? Having to participate meaningfully in class discussions about what you’ve read?
-These classes aren’t curved! What you get is what you get!
And so on and so forth. Anyways, this semester I have been experiencing these things as a “new” social science major. DON’T GET ME WRONG It feels good to not have anxiety attacks about orgo or physics exams, I won’t lie! It feels good taking classes that are more readily and practically applicable to my life and my interests. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with work.
So what do I have this semester?
1.) History of Africa since 1880 (which I take with JHU_Lauren B. and JHU_Miranda) . The class is basically about African nations and how European colonization and domination affected them, as well as the different factors that went into the colonizations. For example, people tend to think that Africa was just dominated by Europeans and that was that…when in fact many Africans were involved in ruling their fellow citizens for different reasons. This class isn’t too bad with the reading but there are usually at least 50 pages of reading per week, more like 60 or 70 I would say. I could be wrong haha. The class requires reading, papers, and discussion. Dr. Berry is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about what she does, and I am very impressed by that.
2.) Global Public Health Since WWII. I LOVE THIS CLASS. Professor Galambos is dynamic and hilarious. This class looks at how public health and public health policy have developed over the years (since WWII). And it’s not limited to America which makes it even better. We recently learned about China’s public health system and how the CCP succeeded in covering 90% of the population with health insurance and care through a tired system that involved “barefoot doctors,” local clinics, and hospitals if the first 2 tiers couldn’t fix the issues. It was efficient and effective, as the life expectancy shot up as well as other indicators of health. When China moved toward a market economy under Xiaoping, public health began to fail. People had to start paying for their own healthcare and of course this meant that the impoverished got no care. A big question we visit often is whether or not globalization inherently causes failures in health by increasing disparities in income and class. What do you think? Anyway like I said I love this eye opening class. There is a ton of reading, a least 100 pages per week. It’s worth it, though!
3.) Power and Racism. Man oh man I love this class and this professor. We have about 150 or so pages of reading a week. This class is about systemic racism and white privilege. Systemic racism? What is that? Well, white privilege is the default. It is built into our society because of the way America was founded–on the backs of slaves. Racism and prejudice have been embedded in the social, political, cultural, and economic structures for as long as our country has been in existence. Agree? Disagree? This is the overarching argument for the basis of the class and I love the discussion each week. Professor Hayes is always telling us that we read for ourselves and newer understandings rather than for a grade. He challenges us to think differently and critically about the issues we encounter in class, and for that I am grateful.
Interesting title, huh? :)
*Sidenote: These aren’t even including my graduate school classes at Bloomberg–I think I will save those for a different blog.*
I think something people don’t realize is that you get out what you put in. Meaning, if you want to learn, you have to read these journals, books, and articles (and I know reading is required for science classes, but you get what I mean. I hope.). Now, it is possible to get by in classes without reading thoroughly and by doing well on papers and exams. It really is (trust me I know personally). But, what do you learn? We think classes that involve reading are classes we can just skate by in because we’re not forced to read like we’re forced to study for a science or math exam (now, I am aware that this is a blanket statement ‘cuz many classes have pop quizzes or exams based on readings…I know). So in a way it’s harder because it requires more self-discipline. More discipline to read, to ask your professor out-of-the-box questions, to become seriously engaged with the topic, and to think about how history has had an impact on the subject at hand in present-day.
RESPECT for all my humanities and social science majors! Yes, science is TOUGH and requires a lot of stuff most humanities major wouldn’t want to deal with–but to be fair, if you’re in a science/engineery major, I am assuming 1. that you like it/chose it and 2. that you wouldn’t enjoy all the reading that these majors have to do. So, prospies, think about this! we’re more than just a science school and whatever you choose will require work. I’m lovin’ my classes this semester!
Posted by Dominique D. | Posted on November 17, 2010
(“Butterflies” is a # 1 hit from MJs album “Invincible,” from 2001.)
I’m gonna do a 2-part blog for the next week or so, about my experience with one of my freshman year classes and how that experience has helped me thus far at Hopkins. Which class? Chem Lab! A class required for pre med/health students and even for many engineers.
Honestly, Chemistry Lab at JHU has a bad reputation, one I heard about way before I even enrolled in the class.
“Be prepared, Dominique. It’s really hard. And ridiculous. And way too much work for a little 1-credit class. And the professor is really strict and mean and never laughs or smiles. And no one helps you or answers your questions well. The TAs are stupid and not very helpful. The professor gives everyone ethics violations for stupid things. AND ALL SHE CARES ABOUT ARE SIG FIGS.”
So naturally, of course I was totally freaked out about the course before I even started. I don’t plan on being a doctor, and even back then as a freshie I didn’t plan on it (I’m doing the pre med courses just to keep my options open for things…plus pre med isn’t the only thing you can do with those courses) so people were asking me why in the world would I put myself through that torture.
So the class. Yep, it was hard and a ton of work for 1 credit. Yep, I spazzed out every lab period and had to give myself a Coldstone therapy session after every lab. Yep, I was the crazy student who would always go to the help sessions and ask 1 million questions on our online discussion forum about the homeworks. Yep, I was the one in lab who would always think she was doing something incorrectly and call the TA over a bazillion times in lab to make sure my experiment was not going awry. I did it all. Each lab period left me with some serious butterflies before and after it was over because it always made me so nervous. Looking back, that was ridiculous because it wasn’t even that bad.
But somehow, in the midst of all of my doubts with the class, I ended up doing well in the class I thought was going to be the end of me. And trust me, I am in no way a science genius or even that great in science…at all. I just figured out the secret that other students didn’t seem to find out, and it had nothing with being a genius or extraordinarily brilliant.
What’s the secret? Well…I used all of my resources and asked for help. Duh! you say. But seriously, I was and still am amazed at the number of students who don’t learn how to use the resources available for this class. The professor, Dr. Pasternack, puts up information about the chemistry for each experiment online. She has an online discussion forum where she answers questions about the assignments, and she answers them all day every day. She has help sessions Sun-Thurs where students can come and get one on one help from TAs with the homeworks. She even answers questions during her office hours or via email for the brave students who aren’t afraid to approach her. Because I did all of these things, I was able to do well in a class, THE class that so many before had warned me about.
I truly think that is one of the hugest keys to success in college…being able to find all of your resources and knowing how and when to use them, for your advantage. You don’t have to be an Einstein genius to do well in school..it would be nice but we’re not all like that.
So if I have any advice for you all in high school, and even for you all in college, it’s to do your homework and to find out alllll of the resources available to you for a class…and then don’t be afraid to use them!
So ya, my next blog will be about why this class is still affecting me, 2 years later. ;)
Posted by Dominique D. | Posted on October 1, 2010
Guess it’s time to ease on down the road of my Fall 2010 classes…I feel as if I am the only one not at the Lupe Fiasco concert going on right now in the gym, but hey it’s ok. I would have felt odd being there but not really being that familiar with his music so maybe it worked out for the best.
Anyways, yep….here are my junior year classes:
Physics 1: Eh, physics was never my favorite subject but I can definitely appreciate that it is very easy to see how applicable it is. For some people, this is important because they can’t like a subject without seeing how it matters directly (ahem…orgo and chemistry). We have to kind of teach ourselves from the book, which I don’t like, but what can ya do? Physics 1 Lab: It’s reputation for being the easiest lab at JHU is proven. I actually like ir because it is low stress. yay!
The Environment and Your Health: A required public health course that teaches us about all of the environmental hazards to which we are exposed on a daily basis. It scares the mess iout of me but it is oh so informative and I like it a lot.
Black History and the Fictive Imagination: This is a 300 level English course that I wanted to take instead of the usual Expository Writing or Intro to Fiction and Poetry. SWe read books by Black authors from different eras and compare the subjects of their works and its relevance to the time period. The discussion is always a good one and the 1.25 hours flies by.
Intermediate Spanish: Knowing another language is always a good thing…so I am continuing with this.
It’s been about a month and I just finished an awful week of work, and I am actually about to go and do this online physics HW that’s due at 11:59 pm…I think I’ll take a trip to NYC next week to recover from this week.
(Before I start, lemme just say that you really have to listen to this video at the end of the blog because “Push Me Away” really is a phenomenal song. =] And different from what you’re used to hearing from MJ. )
Anywho, why the title? This blog will be about one of my classes. I spotlight one each semester, and this semester it’s “African American Poetry and Poetics.”
Now, I don’t really read/understand poetry (the professor made this a running gag throughout the semester hehe) so initially the thought of taking a poetry class pushed me away. I even was enrolled in Introduction to Fiction and Poetry (a class that seemingly half the student population takes for their writing/english requirement) because everyone swore it was easier than Expository Writing (which is like an AP English Language class), so I did it.
And dropped it. Because Dominique and poetry don’t mix. I wasn’t looking forward to the class proofreadings of each other’s works, writing poems and short stories and analyses of them and portfolios of work and blah blah blah. BUT I found this class, which was NOT writing poetry, just reading and analyzing it. And it counted as an English class. SCORE!
So the class. It is taught by Dr. Hollis Robbins, who is HILARIOUS and teaches here and at primarily at Peabody (JHU’s music conservatory downtown). For such an educated professor (Proof: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollis_Robbins --I just found this page seconds ago BTW) she is not stuffy and uppity…quite the opposite, actually. And she is a JHU Writing Sems Alum. A prime example of the quality of the department and the places it can take you. In Dr. Robbin’s case, Harvard, Princeton, and back here to teach.
Although I didn’t understand half of the poems we read in the class, what I did learn overall, was how different and diverse African American Poetry was compared with other types of poetry and it’s literary importance, and it’s history and development over time with a changing America.
We discussed why there was a need for a class called African American Poetry--i.e is it so separated from other genres of poetry that it needs its own? What makes a poem part of the realm of African American poetry--the author’s ethnicity or the topic of the poem?
Norton Anthology of African American Literature
We read Percy Shelley’s “Defence of Poetry” (if you are a poetry fanatic look it up) as a standard of what defines poetry…poetry as imagination, poetry as being used for the moral good of society, poets being legislator’s of the world…etc. That was kind of over my head but I got through it somehow.
We started reading poems from the 18th century till present, so here are a few (seriously we read so many poems I couldn’t even try to fit them in this blog)…
1700’s- Beginnings. Phyllis Wheatley was a poet who was brought from Africa to America as a young girl, and she learned English so well for a slave. However, her poetry didn’t show herself, for lack of a better phrase, and although it was technically magnificent, it is not regarded as the best poetry because of its self-distancing nature. It is understandable though, because if you look at the time period, slaves were not yet (as an overwhelming majority) protesting…besides, Wheatley had a much better life than most other slaves so maybe writing to students at Harvard or about Maecenas was all she had to worry about.
Early 1800’s-Antebellum Period. Here’s where Frederick Douglass kind of made his debut as an advocate for the freedom of the slave, and his prose is great. I’ve read some Douglass before but Dr. Robbins also sees it as poetry, something I would not have thought of before. We read other works of prose from David Walker and Henry Garnet, who appealed to slaves and blacks to try to get them to rise above their oppressors. One of the things we discussed is whether or not non-protest poetry and poetics can be considered of the African American ”genre.” What do you think? Usually when we think about black literature we think about protest. Many scholars hold this opinion, and before this class I have never quite thought about it like that.
Various times: Spirituals, Vernacular, Gospel: I thought including this in the class was pretty cool. You’ve heard spirituals before…Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, This Little Light of Mine…they weren’t just sung by slaves to sound pretty. A lot of times they were code for means of escaping or plotting. Masters and others thought that slaves just sang to keep themselves happy, which some may have, but often it was a secret code that didn’t give itself away and hid in plain sight.
Mid-late 1800’s: Protest Tradition: We learned about how poets like Frances Harper wrote to protest slavery. Her themes included creating some serious sympathy for her subjects, who were usually slave women and children. She was also about black people being educated and raising themselves to a higher standard of living. If you have ever read or heard of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” in your history or english classes, here’s where that comes in.
The War and Post War: There was not much black war poetry…why do you think that was? After the war, there was a change in black poetry…meaning it was not necessarily racial or political. Again, if a black writer writes about nature, with no reference to race or politics, can it be considered black poetry? There were many scholars who wrote about the need or lack of need for criteria for black art, one of whom was WEB DuBois. What do you think?
Early 1900’s: Harlem Renaissance. This is probably the era of black poetry with which you are most familiar. Langston Hughes. Countee Cullen. Claude McKay. Think of it as a flowering of African American intellectualism, and the “New Negro”--blacks shouldn’t dress badly, shouldn’t stand out, shouldn’t speak “black” or dress ethnically, no Africa references, no Jazz, no vernacular…again, look at the time period. If you were a slave or had parents/grandparents who were enslaved, you wouldn’t want to go back to that…slavery was a shameful past and New Negroes aimed to wash that past away. You would just want to be a “normal” part of society. Plus there were still rampant Jim Crow laws and other things still going on in the country.
Now, definitely not all writers and artists and people during this period were New Negroes of course, and many new developments in black culture occurred…for instance, Hughes was more modernistic in style and a bit more raw with his poetry and he was racially charged. There is actually an english class here about the Harlem Renaissance so if that interests you, go for it!
Post Renaissance, Post WW2, Modern Black Poetry: After the Renaissance, traditionally structured poems were used as racial commentary…so kind of a combo of previous black poets’ styles and subjects. Then poems got more modern…think of Lucille Clifton, who was very into not using capital letters in her works, and she was a feminist (think male-female gender struggle) and saw her body as her poetry. Modern=move from Western traditionalist type poems. Protest poetry came back (well, I guess it never really left but it was stronger), and we read some of Amiri Baraka’s poems. Lots of anger and forcefulness mixed with some weirdness. I won’t link to some of his works here for slight decency purposes but if you wish you can Google him. :) He was actually Poet Laureate for a while, which is cool.
We ended the class with modern poetry, like Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Rita Dove. Then we discussed whether hip hop lyrics could be considered poetry…again I won’t link any of those but feel free to explore on your own.
All in all, I REALLY enjoyed the class, even though poetry in itself tends to make me uncomfortable and push me away, and I learned a lot. I am SO happy I took this class instead of Introduction to Fiction and Poetry because I got more out of it and learned how to read and analyze poems differently, as well as how to look at the historical contexts of place and time to discuss why a poem is the way it is. This course is Dominique approved!
Posted by Dominique D. | Posted on December 26, 2009
Let me just apologize in advance for what’s going to be a long blog, but it’s something that I feel needs to be addressed, as I reflect on my semester. (And yes, the title is yet another MJ song from the musical The Wiz…an African-American version of The Wizard of Oz. :) )
So back to winning. I’m a Hopkins student (duh). And that means that I strive to do my best. I know what I am capable of, so I push myself towards being the best I can be. I know what I can’t do, so I settle for the next best thing in those cases. I do what I can to ensure my success in classes, but in a reasonable manner. I care a tremendous amount about my grades, as being good in school is something that I have prided myself on for years and years.
But being a Hopkins student also means that when I fall short of something I think I could have done better on, I beat myself up and have a hard time accepting it. I overanalyze and try to find where I went wrong, what I could have done differently, etc…then I end up an unhappy mess. And who wants to be that?
This past semester was my lightest in terms of the workload. I only had 4 classes. I had a great schedule, and I didn’t have to smush a ton of classes in one semester to fit my minor in either. I was able to watch television and chill, and I had more time to myself. While my roommate had 4 consecutive tests every few weeks (forcing her to only have a few days to study for each), I had seven exams total for the semester, giving me plenty of time to study but relax at the same time. As a result, I was a lot less anxious and worried about exams and grades than I’d been in semesters past. I mean, I had moments of anxiety, but they passed. So, naturally I thought that I would ACE this semester.
But orgo had something else in mind. I wasn’t happy with my test grades, considering how well I knew the material. When I went to discuss my progress with my orgo professor, even he said he expected me to do well in the end because my exams looked that they were hurt by test anxiety issues, rather than comprehension issues. That conversation made me feel a lot better.
So when I saw my final orgo grade that was far from anything I’d ever seen as a final grade, I freaked out. I felt like it was so unfair. How could I have understood the material so well and attended tutoring sessions and worked so hard, but end up with a crap grade that looked like I’d studied a little (which some people did and even they did better than I)? I’d never gotten a grade like that before so I didn’t know how to react or what to think.
I felt like I could not afford to have this blemish on a transcript. I felt ashamed next to my peers who were taking say, 5 science classes at once and still excelled in all of them. How could I only have 4 classes, which were not that demanding, and only one final and one paper, yet still do badly? At Hopkins, it seems like bad grades are some sort of blasphemy because everyone is so smart and can do so much. My goal of being able to say I completed undergrad at Hopkins with all good grades was gone.
So yea, I felt like I couldn’t win–I felt this way because everything was in place to ensure my success in orgo..the time, the resources, the study habits. So I could not understand why I hadn’t performed better. This bothered me so much it overshadowed the other 3 A’s I’d gotten in my other classes.
Was I losing my mind? Of course I was! I was totally hysterical, and I was making it a much bigger deal than it needed to be. But for me this WAS a huge deal. It’s always hard experiencing something undesirable for the first time. However, after I calmed down, I saw a brighter side of the situation, regardless of the orgo grade and regardless of the general stigma of bad grades, period. Yes I got good grades in the midst, but one terrible grade can kinda steal that away from you. It shouldn’t though.
When you feel like you can’t win, the key is to CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE. No need walking around in a funk about something you can’t change, especially when you did the best you could. Usually when you put in a lot of effort you see it–but there are times that does not happen…and we just have accept it and brush ourselves off. So here are some things that are helping me deal.
–Be realistic and have an open mind. It’s pre med at Johns Hopkins (heck, it’s Hopkins in general)—the classes will be hard. And in all honesty no one is immune from doing poorly once in a while. I don’t necessarily mean for the final grade, but most people see some bad test grades during their time here. I was always thinking that I could never do badly for a final grade because I never had before. How stupid. Well, as they say, there is a first time for everything, right?
–No need to be ashamed. People may make you feel badly because they did better than you did, but you can’t compare yourself to other people. I did the best I could for Dominique, and that’s all I can ask of myself. I’m not happy with the result but it can only hurt me personally as much as I let it.
–Erm, it’s JUST A GRADE. It seems like so much more because so much weight is placed on the value of grades…but remember there are so many more factors that contribute to that grade. Test anxiety issues, personal/familial problems, health issues…I was so mad at myself that I forgot I’d been battling chronic severe headaches and bad carpal tunnel along with other health things–and I can say that I am proud of myself for working through those instead of using them as an excuse for not trying as hard.
Life does not stop, nor should you let it…and I realize that I did what I could given my circumstances. We keep saying this, but you really aren’t your grades!
–It’s a chance for improvement. When you do badly then improve drastically, that is JUST as, if not more, impressive than doing well all along. This is what I will be aiming for come next semester. And this, my friends, is what causes grad schools and internships and whatnot to take interest in you, despite some undesirable grades.
–It’s not the end of the world … if you want something, you can reach it regardless of bad grades or whatever else you may be experiencing. Then when you get to where you want to be, it’s more rewarding.
Now as I’ve said, sorry for this long blog … but I just felt as if I needed to address this whole issue of bad grades, because everyone has a chance of getting them no matter how good you were in high school. College is a whole different animal and the ONLY thing you can ensure is that you do your best.
When life gives you bad lemons, throw ‘em away and get some fresh ones to make a good batch of lemonade. What’s even more important than your final grade is your growth and what have learned from your experiences as an undergrad. Sometimes we have to struggle so we can learn how to change the way we look at things, which I personally think is more valuable than getting the best grades ever. I know it feels like you can’t win when your best is not good enough to guarantee you a good grade, but you actually can win, if you just change your perspective and give yourself a break. =]
Posted by Dominique D. | Posted on December 6, 2009
It’s the mostttttt wonderful time of the yearrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!! No, no, not Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever else you celebrate or don’t celebrate. I mean finals at Hopkins.
Sorry for the weird intro. It’s a wonderful time of year because it means most of us will be home in 2 weeks or less, and will return at the end of January. But of course, as students, we fail to see this wonderful-ness until after exams are over, and rightfully so. It’s a rough period because it’s the time to make up any bad midterm/paper grades that you got during the semester…and this puts a lot of pressure on us. It’s also easy to do the reverse–get great grades during the semester and then mess up because of a bad final, which are usually worth 1/3-1/2 or more of your grade. Sorry if this scares you kiddos, but this is the reality of college. And as scary as it may be, you don’t have to over-overstress or be in the dark about how to conquer finals. Now, I haven’t found a fool proof method that always ensures success on these finals, but I do know one thing students can/should do if they feel in the dark about finals–talk to your professors!
Hence the title of this blog (still MJ songs). We’re all in the dark about how to prepare for exams at one point or another. Personally, I’ve found that speaking to professors outside of the classroom helps with this a lot. Many students find professors unapproachable, which is understandable; they do have PhDs and prizes and awards and whatnot. However, learning to get over that is a good thing to consider. Some professors are willing to talk to you about your exam/paper track record and see what you may have been doing wrong/need to improve on. And who better to get advice from than the person who grades your stuff?
Example. Organic chemistry hasn’t been going the way I would have liked for it to go. Fine. Happens to the best of us. So I went to the professor to talk to him about what I could be doing wrong and how to best study for his exams. He actually took my exams from me and looked at the types of mistakes I made, and concluded that he was optimistic about my performance on the final because the mistakes looked like ones due to time constraints and anxiety, rather than a severe comprehension issue. He then told me that my method of studying (reading the text and answering some questions) wasn’t the best way to go; rather, I should attack the problems first (and do more of them) then go back to the text as a reference. Then he told me the score range I would need to get on the final to get the class grade I want. Who says professors are all scary beings?
For another class, I have a chunky research paper due, and I’m kind of clueless. Thankfully, we have the opportunity to go to office hours and speak with her about our paper and whatnot.
So, my whole point–yes, finals can seem like impending doom and they are on ALL of our minds (I think this is why all of the other recent entries are about finals…sorry for not being more original). BUT, you don’t have to be in the dark about them. Not all professors will do what mine did, but a good amount will, and there are also upperclassmen and TAs who can help with this also.
Now it’s time for me to really REALLY stop procrastinating by watching GLEE over and over again and looking up every possible tidbit of information I can find about the show and its characters. It’s getting kind of creepy.
If you’re having high school finals also, suerte!!! (Good luck!)
Posted by Dominique D. | Posted on November 23, 2009
Each semester I try to give an exclusive look at one of my classes. This time, I’ll do my “Education and Inequality: Individual, Contextual and Policy Perspectives” class, an upper level writing intensive course in the sociology department. I was going to break my Michael Jackson title streak for this entry until I thought about his song “Keep the Faith.” I say this because in this class, we have examined disheartening statistics about schooling, theories and reasons for them, and possible solutions. At first, I felt like all this class did was reinforce my knowledge of how bad things are for the U.S. in terms of education. Then I got over it and realized that a LOT of people have been and still are researching this problem and working on it–hence the “Keep the Faith” title I’ve given to this blog entry. :)
The professor is Dr. Stefanie DeLuca, who has got to be one of the most laid back professors I’ve ever had. She is young and brilliant, and devoted to studying the sociology of education, and outcomes of education for youth. And she tells us to call her Stefanie, which is kind of weird I won’t lie. But she’s definitely another great professor JHU has to offer–and NOT in a pre med department!
So what is this class about anyway?
We started off talking about theories of education and society. Theories like…legitimation, where some people think that education is not as necessary as people think it is! These people believe that society has been brainwashed into thinking that we’ll die without education, because education is seen as a system of rites that youth pass through in order to fulfill different social roles within society, rather than a tool to make youth more informed and helpful citizens. These theorists don’t necessarily think that higher education=higher skill and competence. Now if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably really interested in Hopkins and therefore are really into higher education, so that theory sounds crazy to you. Me too. But in their defense, if you think about it, a lot of us do hw and schoolwork begrudgingly because we have to, or else we won’t get to the next level. Am I lying? Let that one simmer.
Another theory is the functionalist/socialization theory, which says that schools preserve social order by integrating youth into adult roles, which include training them for demands in the labor market.
And yet another one says that education is influenced based on the needs of society. like Roman education focused on being good warriors; Middle Ages society focused on Christian-izing (yes I made that up) their youth; in the Renaissance, youth were taught more artsy and literature topics; and today, we can see the HUGE emphasis on math and science.So this portion of the course was background.
We then talked about how people attain education and how they end up where they are, educationally and socially. The United States is considered a meritocratic system, meaning that people who start as underdogs but use their wits and intelligence have a high chance of making it to the top, like a “rags to riches” type thing. Other societies, like the U.K. for example, have a more pre-determined system, based on socioeconomic class.
One of my favorite parts was talking about the test score gap that exists between white and Asian students and Black and Latino students. It’s obvious that the latter group is still lagging behind, despite improvements in overall test scores. WHAT HAS CAUSED THIS GAP? There are parental, teacher, peer pressure, and environmental factors. It is argued that teachers judge students prematurely based on their socioeconomic status, and treat them accordingly. Many minority students complain of being accused of “acting white” if they excel in their studies, and therefore don’t try as hard. And there are a bajillion other factors and theories I don’t have time to get into here.
Another part I liked was gender and education. Overall, women are outdoing men in terms of educational completion and degree attainment, but we’re not seeing that feedback in the labor market! Men still get paid more then women do overall, for the same jobs. Some sociologists feel that from a young age, boys have the advantage over girls in the classroom because teachers supposedly respond to them more, and let them get away with more things. Girls are taught through subliminal messaging that domestic work and secretarial jobs are “meant” for them, and as a result many people feel like girls have the lower hand from a young age and become less confident and wanted in the job market. Or it could just be plain ol gender discrimination. What do you think?
Do any of you all go to high schools where there are different” levels?” As in honors, gifted and talented, college prep, vocational, etc…? That’s called “tracking” and it has many many opponents who argue that students in the lower tracks get the short end of the stick because of this ability grouping. They tend to get worse quality of education as well as vastly fewer higher education opportunities. If you’re looking at this blog, you’re most likely in a high “track” for some or all of your classes in high school–well, statistically speaking, you end up better off than many of your peers. Is this fair? Should schools be “de-tracked” in order to ensure that everyone has an equal chance of academic success?
The last thing we talked about was whether college really is the right choice for our students. If you’re reading this blog (sorry for saying that so many times :) ) you’re probably one of the people who is into what educational sociologists call the “College for All (CFA)” mentality.
You know it’s true. People push for higher education of our youth all the time, with little to no room to think otherwise about things like vocational/skills training–it’s all college or nothing. There is a huge debate going on about whether this mentality is healthy for America. Statistics show that getting a college degree in no way guarantees a comfortable middle class lifestyle; in fact,many high school grads/college dropouts achieve the same economic level as many college grads. Now of course there are other factors that influence this, but yea…a weird finding. Only a fraction of people who start college will actually finish with a degree, and they’re no better off than regular high school grads. Because so many students are arguably coerced into applying to colleges without looking at other possibilities, those who DON’T make it have no idea what they can do. Our professor is actually writing a book with other authors about why the CFA mentality is dangerous, for lac of a better word, if students are entering the process without being fully informed.
And for the final assignment, we have a lovely 10-15 page research paper on any educational topic of our choice, which I kinda need to start on. But yea, this class is so interesting and gave a lot of insight on the sociology of education in America. She is a great interactive lecturer and if you end up coming here, I’d try to take a class from her!
Posted by Dominique D. | Posted on September 26, 2009
The title is the name of a Michael Jackson song from his “Thriller” album. Although he was talking about something else, I thought it would fit because I am “starting” a new blog and a new year….ok cheesy again? I guess so.
But anywho… if you didn’t know, my name is Dominique, and I am a sophomore Public Health Studies (natural sciences) major. I don’t really know what I want to do career-wise, so all I can say is we’ll see how things work out. I think some of that will include involvement with the School of Public Health in terms of research or something to narrow my interests.
So, since this is my first official entry of the school year, I guess it is appropriate to reveal what my classes are this semester. I have a lighter load than many of my peers because my academic adviser and I decided that I had a lot of room and flexibility to take it easy this semester, coming off of one that was way too stressful for me. Also, I have a new job this year (more info on that in later blogs), as well as increased leadership in a few of my clubs, so I decided to test the waters and see how things felt this time around.
1.) Spanish Elements I:
The easiest Spanish class here (actually, for a beginner’s class, it’s a little harder and faster than I would have expected but still fine).
Hey, you have to start somewhere right? I was actually going to drop this class for an English one that is required but my adviser convinced me that it was not wrong to postpone the required class in order to take a non required one that I would enjoy. Plus, I think that knowing even some elementary aspects of a foreign language is wonderful and very necessary, especially for a major like Public Health.
2.) Public Health Biostats:
Basically statistics with health related applications. Or at least that’s how I like to think of it. It’s a required Public Health course, and it’s not too bad yet. I don’t really like statistics but knowing how to use it for research and reading/writing papers is crucial, and I think this is a general thing, not just for PH majors.
3.) Organic Chemistry I:
The dreaded ‘orgo,’ as it is so endearingly called. If you’re pre med you will hear about it and how hard it is and whatnot, regardless of the school you attend. Lucky for me, I have an amazing professor, Lawrence Principe, who is extremely funny and does a great job of explaining concepts to you so they’ll be explicit. I kind of like orgo at this point, so we’ll see if that remains as the semester goes on. Also, it’s much less mathy than general chemistry so hopefully that helps me out too.
4.) Education and Inequality:
This is a 300 level Sociology course that I am taking out of interest, and also because my major requires several upper level courses in the social sciences. I really like it because it talks about the history of educational inequality in the U.S., and about the different theories and reforms in place that have been used to effect change in these educational disparities. So far, we have talked about things like whether or not education is ultimately necessary, whether education has become a sector in the market instead of something to make us more informed citizens, and more. I like the class a lot, but it’s taking me a while to learn how to read all of the material effectively. Usually I can just fake my way through readings and discussions (which you shouldn’t do because that’s not the point of school) but I kind of want/need to stop that.
I hope to leave the class with a better understanding of why educational disparities exist and what can be done to help them, and then some. I was also interested in the course because I have a mildly-extensive background in working with the Baltimore City School System from an administrative point of view. So we’ll see how this class goes.
It’s kind of crazy how school has only been in session for about 3 weeks, yet I feel like we’ve been here for a while because it’s getting hard to catch my breath! Such is the life of an involved and engaged Hopkins student.
Hasta luego! (sorry about the elementary Spanish phrases but I need to practice them :P )
P.S. Enjoy the awesome and random dinosaur blog template!