Well, I made it through Tuesday of the first week of another semester. I have now met all my professors and been to all of my classes and I’m happy with what I have found. I’m in two honors classes this semester, which are small and intimate classes. They are seminar type classes without exams or finals; grades are based on participation and papers written at least once each week. College professors never cease to amaze me and the experience of listening to them day after day is just incredible. I suppose this is from my background; I have no complaints against my former teachers, but well, they were just *ordinary *people. They hadn’t written books or spent 20 years in Machu Picchu or spent 15 years as professional writer. Not that it improves people, but it definitely makes good conversation material.
Following is the usual rundown of my classes and a few thoughts of each—understandably of little interest to others but good for my record.
Precalculus: “relate graphical, numerical and algebraic properties: zeroes, factors, intercepts, asymptotes, intervals of increase or decrease, domain and range, functional values, end behavior, dominance, period, frequency, amplitude. Sketch graphs by hand of linear, quadratic, reciprocal, polynomial, rational, square root, absolute value, exponential, logarithm, sine, cosine, and tangent functions and combinations of these functions.” This is a partial list of operations I am expected to know by May. It still looks like Greek to me. The tradeoff is that the professor is awesome and actually loves teaching math. All will be well.
Choices in Literature: This is an Honors intensive and writing course with small class size of 15. “We will trace the events and personal decisions — accidents, alcoholism, protesting for peace, going to war –that frame and influence writing…we will analyze the choices that authors voice through their characters, from courtiers in Denmark to soldiers in Viet Nam, from timid men intent on murder to girls intent on having fun. While studying an assortment of short stories, poems, plays, and novels, you will construct your own methods for measuring choices and results. Authors include James Thurber, Pablo Neruda, Dorothy Parker, Joyce Carol Oates, Tim O’Brien, Tom Stoppard, Dylan Thomas, Saki, Ray Bradbury, Herman Melville, and more.” I’m pretty excited about this course because it’s reading-intensive and because we have good discussion and debates as coursework. The professor wrote for a magazine in San Francisco for 15 years and has been all over the US while interviewing subjects for articles. The final project is a bit intimidating—a 17 page research paper accompanied by abstract and oral presentation—but I’ve already chose a topic that I’m reading about now. You can probably guess what it is…
Managerial Accounting: In this class we focus on internal accounting and operations analysis rather than GAAP accounting for the SEC and the public. This style of accounting is more subjective with more room for innovation and creativity in evaluating profitability and future business strategies.
Quantitative Methods: This is really just another statistics course, my third since attending NAU. I’ve scanned the book and the material is all familiar, will probably be recapping survey and statistics analyzing, and the ethical issues that accompanies this type of science.
Humankind Emerging: I’ll know I’ll make some enemies with this course among my faithful right readers, but it looked too interesting to pass up. The professor spent 20 years in Machu Picchu as an archaeologist and has an incredible base of experience with ancient civilizations. He’s also heavily involved with culture preservation programs to instill cultural appreciation in the Native youth of Arizona tribes. It’s an honors course, class size 8, with no formal exams. Assignments are debates and discussions on a multitude of issues—there is no shortage of debatable material associated with human beginnings and our prehistoric ancestors. There will be many papers to write, many books to read, and presentations at the campus symposium at end of term. Honors classes definitely go further with creativity, critical thinking, and presentations.
Macro Economics, The Current Recession, and Global Sustainability: This is my dream course in a lot of ways; I’ve read Daniel Quinn and been hooked. Professor Doug Brown, Flagstaff native for 30 years, has written several books geared toward better understanding Quinn’s ideas in Ishmael and has a close association with author Quinn. Brown admitted that he fried a lot of brain cells in the 60’s and was radicalized in ’69… His opening statement, “I’m worried about humanity, frankly” and lecture on how capitalism with its insatiable appetite and unsustainability is bringing down our environment and humanity as we know it. Brown describes himself as a “radical, left-wing, socialist” with a strong Marxist bent and is an advocate of a paradigm shift away from capitalism to a sustainable way of living, with or without government. “Reaching the limit is imminent, there will be dying off, a lot of suffering” as the earth is populated with more greedy people than it can support. He says he is not preaching doom, only wants to convey the message that each person take personal responsibility and rethink appetite and greed. He disagrees with the national bell curve grading standard where 8% of the class gets A’s, and says we’ll all get A’s and B’s if we listen to his message and do the reading. Professors like this make me proud to be an American, proud to live in a leftist town like Flagstaff. This course might well be the most enlightening of my six this semester.