At the end of my last HUM 2 (the second course of the Revelle College Humanities sequence) lecture of the quarter, my professor concluded by saying, “It is remarkable that across these texts, humans still come up with the same basic answers.”
But Dr. Lyon, in a course in which we only read texts written by European authors, how is it remarkable that they all retold the same European perspective? Rather, it is remarkable that for a course sequence whose goal is to help students “conduct independent critical assessment of documents and ideas,” all of the texts taught leave out more global perspectives.
In HUM 2, we read only Greek texts, Roman texts, and the Bible. My professor focused the vast majority of lectures on explaining how main characters represent Christian leaders, and my TA focused the vast majority of discussions on relating the texts to Christian values and living an ideal Christian life. We did not conduct literary analysis on these texts, discuss the context in which the texts were written, or read works by authors with different perspectives to compare with these European texts.
Studying works by authors such as Plato, Darwin, and Confucius all provide useful ideas for understanding complex issues. Any person who reads works from each of these authors will see there are diverse ways of analyzing the world, but a person who reads only works from one of these authors would be limited in understanding broader ideas and viewpoints.
Furthermore, channeling diversity of perspective into the HUM curriculum is possible. In my HUM 1 course, Professor Chodorow focused the class on explaining the readings in the context they were written and the course in the context it was designed, allowing me to make my analysis a little less dependent on the Western perspective. I saw where texts like the Bible represented Christian values, but I also saw the varying authors who contributed to the text and the varying contexts through which the authors conducted their analyses.
Chodorow brought in elements that he developed for the Making of the Modern World (MMW) program, Eleanor Roosevelt College’s writing sequence. As one of the program’s original designers, Professor Chodorow explains that it aims to “lead students through comparative cultural studies” to explain the modern, global world and all of its intersections. Students gain tools to independently assess documents and ideas because they can consider a range of perspectives. For Revelle College to give its students the best tools to for critical thinking, it must update the HUM sequence to include comparative studies and non-Western texts.
Switching to classes where students conduct comparative studies will also benefit those students by allowing them to practice skills directly relating to their majors. The majority of Revelle students are STEM students, so research-based writing like comparative analysis will be useful in many of their future careers. However, the heavy course load required by Revelle College makes it difficult for its students to take practical writing classes offered at UCSD outside of college requirements.
“It is very hard to make time for research when you have a class load such as the one for electrical engineering, and when Revelle GEs are added to that, it makes it even harder,” said Bassel Hatoum, a third year electrical engineering major and Revelle College student. “When I learned that there were scientific research-based writing classes being offered at UCSD, but that they are not required nor advertised by Revelle College, I was truly appalled.”
Moreover, Revelle College must change its writing sequence so that its students can be competitive for internships, graduate schools, and full-time jobs.
“Since I started attending UCSD, I have heard many faculty members and professionals tell me that when I get interviewed for a potential job, I will be asked why I don’t have research experience when I attended a school that is renowned for its research,” Hatoum also said. By changing its writing sequence, Revelle can also increase the educational value of the college and give its graduates more skills to work at the forefront of their fields.
The Revelle Humanities sequence—five courses compared to most other colleges’ two or three—is enough of a pain without also being impractical. If you have had experiences similar or different than mine with the Humanities program in Revelle, please consider reaching out to Revelle College administration or making a public statement on the courses.
Mick Mattie is a Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow him at @mick_mattie.