Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Higher Ignorance

I'm currently taking two classes this summer semester and so far I'm well done (time to come off the grill!) I took two classes last summer and while it was hectic, I survived. Mentally, I'm done but physically, I've got a few more classes so I'm hanging in there. But I have a gripe with my professor. Actually, with almost all professors at this and many schools.

Last summer, I took my first philosophy class and we focused mostly on Socrates (our visiting prof. was fixated on him). There was mention of some of the Eastern philosophers but she simply stated, "we just don't have time for them." The summer sessions move fast because they're roughly five weeks. I also took a Renaissance art course last summer and we primarily focused on Leonardo, Michelangelo, Bernini, Titian, and many others.

This summer, I'm taking my intermediate seminar (required of all students) which focuses on great world leaders. Our visiting prof. is actually an art historian so while we've talked about Elizabeth I, Hatshepsut, Marcus Garvey, Cesar Chavez, Hitler, Freud, Pericles, Gertrude Stein and many others, we inevitably came back to leaders in the arts. The two individuals that we focused on that week were Fan Kuan, an ancient Chinese landscape artist, and Titian, a Venetian Renaissance painter. Well, needless to say, we only spent about 10 minutes (barely) on Fan Kuan and then utilized the rest of the 3 hour period looking at a billion works on Titian. Moreover, our prof. was visibly filled with glee and joyfulness as she went through the various slides; it was quite evident in her voice.

Furthermore, my private lessons professor (I'm a music major with a concentration on piano) is equally obsessed with the great classical composers such as Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Haydn, Debussy and many others. I'm currently working on a sonata from Haydn and I've already got Chopin and Bach under my belt. During my first semester with her, she initially asked if I wanted to do some non-classical pieces and we selected compositions by Coltrane, Ellington, Basie and other great jazz composers. Needless to say, she wasn't feeling it.

The point I'm driving at is that I feel most professors tend to avoid "non-Western" or contemporary subjects. Subsequently, I'm beginning to believe this is a UMB phenomenon. When I was enrolled at ERAU, DWC and Berklee, we studied the greats but the range of philosophers, writers and composers we studied was extremely diverse. I got a taste of Native American ideals, African concepts, some Middle Eastern morals and other types of world history. However, I'm beginning to think the professors aren't willing to step outside their comfort zones. It's nice to acknowledge the ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian societies and respect the British Empire for it's accomplishments. Even American history is interesting to skim through. Nevertheless, I think they're overly provincial and narrow-minded and need to step into the 21st century.

I've addressed my concern but the continuous answer(s) I've received is that there simply isn't enough time to cover the "complex intricacies involved in Chinese philosophy" or that "it's not part of the course curriculum." That, in my opinion, is a steaming pile of bull. I like professors who challenge you to think but I'm not finding that at UMB. I guess I shouldn't really care because I just want to get my degree and get out. However, it's eating at me more and more and I feel as though I'm getting financially ripped-off by racist professors. Ironically, when I did take an African studies course at UMB, I found the African-American prof. to be as equally biased and racist towards white, Western society. So if the whole point of going to college is to become a better person and educate ignorant people, why are there still these attitudes and prejudices? Obviously I can't be naive to think that such an insidious ideology such as racism didn't exist in higher education. However, I'm deeply concerned to watch students just sit there and soak it up just because they "need the credits." Perhaps I received a well-rounded and diverse academic background at my previous schools because they were privately funded. Does this mentality only exist there because it's a state school? And does anyone understand my perspective?

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