I’m in the middle of my sixth week of my second semester and I thought I would take some time to reflect on two of my favorite classes I’m currently taking, English 1110.01 and Classics/AAAS 3956.
In my English class, we are learning about the linguistic perspective on language. I’ve learned that two approaches to understanding language exist: the prescriptive method and the descriptive method. Non-linguists such as high school grammar teachers prefer to take the prescriptive approach while linguists favor the descriptive approach. The prescriptive method attempts to establish rules about how language should be while the descriptive method simply concerns itself with how speakers of a language use the language natural. Prescriptivists are quick to say that some languages are better than others, are nit-picky about grammatical constructions such as split infinitives and double negatives, and, concerning US English, believe that Standard American English dialect is superior to all other English dialects such as African American Vernacular English, southern mountain dialects, Chicano, etc. Despising variation, supporters of the prescriptivist approach often believe that speakers of non-standard dialects lack education. This is extremely problematic the way someone speaks is a poor indicator of intelligence. Unfortunately, many believe that it is. This class has taught me to transcend my own perspective and to respect different dialects. My entire way of thinking has been altered because at one time, I too used to believe Standard American English to be superior to other “non-standard” dialects. Bethany Christianson, a grad student in linguistics, teaches this class and I’ve enjoyed every moment.
In my African American Classics class taught by Tom Hawkins, I’ve learned a lot about the history of race. From ideas held by ancient philosophers; to Antebellum and post-Civil War theorists and writers; to relatively more modern commentary such as Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man. My understanding of race has deepened and the ideas I’ve learned in this class has reshaped my philosophy on life in general. We’ve discussed early environmental theories of race to genetic theories, learned about the importance of Egypt in the argument against the idea that people of African descent are inferior to other races and are incapable of producing art, original ideas, or truly contributing to human progress without imitating Whites. Obviously this is untrue but people truly believed that back then and some believe this idea to this day.
Furthermore, we’ve just finished reading and discussing The Invisible Man. This book has really triggered a renewing feeling within me that I haven’t felt since reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden my sophomore year of high school. Witnessing the narrator of TIM transition from an annoying, ingratiating boy to a man in search of meaning really affected me. Chapter 11 was particularly inspiring because in this chapter, the narrator, having been injured when he fails to prevent a factory explosion, wakes up remembering nothing of his past. He has forgotten his name, who his mother is, and most importantly, who he is. The doctor at one point when trying to learn the narrator’s identity asks “Who are you?” but the narrator cannot answer. The scene feels ethereal and fresh– somewhat like being born again. Like a fresh chalk board or a blank canvas. I related very much to the main character in this seen.
Once a person graduates high school, no one is there to tell that person how to live or where to project their life anymore. I’m no longer just taking the next AP class or striving to be section leader or to perform better than my peers. I struggled with feelings of loss and confusion my first semester of college. Honestly, these sentiments persist as I continue to recreate my identity. Although who I was in high school no longer exists, my experiences from that time in my life have made me into who I am today. I was an artist, a photographer, a musician, and an excellent student. No longer participating in the activities I did in high school last semester, I sort of forgot who I was. I stopped taking pictures, journalling, meditating, and thinking deeply. This semester, I’ve been revisiting activities that used to bring me joy and purpose. I’ve joined an ensemble, practice piano consistently, journal, and have brought my camera back to campus. I remembered that I take photos as a historian– to bring smiles and curiosity to people’s faces later in life. Not to gain likes on social media. Moreover, I also realized that I was feeling unhappy because I no longer practiced gratitude. So many wonderful things have happened to me this semester: I’ve got extremely supportive and inspiring mentors (Kayla C., Courtney J., Traci B., Rashad); an amazing family; a wonderful opportunity to experience OSU with a full-ride scholarship through Morrill Scholars; awesome, inclusive friends; good roommates; infinite food; intriguing classes; and of course music. I’m still growing, and I’ll keep you updated on my journey.