Cookbook: Part 2

I don’t plan on this blog post being very long or interesting. I just desire, and probably need, a space to reflect on my overall experience with this course. A couple of blog posts ago I detailed how I have been having trouble putting the ingredients together all semester long. In her comments on that post, Dr. McCoy politely inquired why I didn’t ask for help sooner and referenced Mary Rutigliano’s epigraph from the syllabus. Little did she know that I was working on a whole blog post attempting to address this matter that was based on Mary’s quote.

Specifically,  the part of Mary’s statement that spoke to me the most was her askance, “That we be rooted in a pursuit of growing our understanding, a sense of wonder, and the agreement that we can’t learn anything without one another’s help.” I deeply admire Mary, and have since I lived with her during first-year orientation. I think she is smart, hard-working, compassionate, and doing wonderful things (and will continue to do so). The reason I am spending time acclaiming Mary is that I have no doubt that her statement was a true, well thought-out wish for this course which she felt deserved to be taught. Her faith in what this course could be is almost enough for me to take it at face value. Everything I have learned this semester, though I originally thought and feared it was nothing, has been rooted in my understanding of the above-mentioned part of Mary’s epigraph. So now, I am going to attempt to take apart the fragments of Mary’s statement and then hopefully put them back together in a reflective conclusion.

“rooted in a pursuit of growing our understanding”

By signing up for this course, I considered myself to be informally contracting myself to pursue knowledge and understanding of a new topic. My history of taking “random” classes that interest me even though they are outside my home discipline has made me a bit of a curiosity in several circles. However, I feel that having general knowledge in a variety of subjects allows to connect with a variety of people, which is all I could possibly want (this practice has also allowed me to be surprisingly good at Jeopardy). Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were so many other students who had registered for the class and also seemed excited to learn.

“a sense of wonder”

If you remember, Dr. McCoy asked the class at the beginning of the semester to individually write on a note card of any special considerations they wanted her to take into account. I was wonder struck at that kindness that seemed so extraordinary, but was simply full of empathy and common sense. It was that day that I came to the conclusion that I don’t think Dr. McCoy wants to see any of us fail.

That being said, I think this class is an incredibly difficult thing to tackle, even without my tendency to assume I’ll have time for everything.  Two ideas stem off of that thought. One, I am pleasantly surprised at how much I have been thinkING lately, and not just about this class and its content. Miracle of miracles, somehow this class has gotten me to think meaningfully during my “free time.” Often this has allowed me to feel more prepared for my classes and more able to participate in discussions that I don’t know if I would have before. That being said, I don’t know how good my contributions are yet, but I am struck that I am having this reaction at all. My default has always been to lose myself to thinking about nothing at all and to clear my mind.

And second, many kudos to those who did not put off their blog posts and have instead set a standard for what one should do when taking this course. I am filled with a envious sense of wonder that those individuals were able to start taking from the class as early as they did. If I’m honest, there were days when I had no idea what was going on despite doing the reading and trying to contribute to discussion.

“the agreement that we can’t learn anything without one another’s help”

The Art of Steve Prince is designed to be an interdisciplinary class to its core, and we all come from different backgrounds. That’s both a mouthful and a mindful. My main reason for not asking for help is because I was scared of the class in general. To be clear, not the students or the professors, but the sheer enormity of what this class expects us to do. The Art of Steve Prince’s learning outcomes are as follows:

Students will demonstrate: 1) Integrative Inquiry: To ask meaningful questions connecting personal experiences to academic study and co-curricular life; to synthesize multiple bodies of knowledge to address real-world problems and issues. 2) Application and Transfer: To adapt and apply skills, theories, and methods gained in one or more domains to new situations. 3) Reflection: To reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time; to make personal, professional, and civic plans based on that self-reflection.”

Before this class, I do not think I have ever paid much attention to the learning outcomes of any of the classes that I have taken at SUNY Geneseo. I certainly have never before felt scared at the prospect of a class that I wanted to take. While I was off-put by what I perceived to be constant transitions from topic to topic, I was not yet recognizing how much the class discussion and small group discussion was helping to further my understanding of the course and its content. Because of my classmates, I was able to understand talk about art critically and not feel like what I was saying was completely off-base. Something that I especially liked in hindsight was when we would spend a class period or part of one analyzing a single piece of Prince’s work (ex. “Flameau” several times and “Urban Mixtape”). That really gave me the confidence I needed to make some personal progress.

If my somewhat scattered thoughts aren’t clear enough, I really think we did it. I think this class made a real impact on the individual students’ lives, the professors’ and TAs’ lives, and will allow us to go out into the world, should we choose, with greater understanding of the course content and a willingness to share our ideas and fight injustice when we can (and we should want to choose, at least based on my personal take-aways from the class).

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