Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Second Version of the Review of our Friday Class

I am here posting an alternative version of the Friday Class. Do note that I have made a few BOLD and Underlines in addition to some slight changes to make things look a bit fresher. The report has been contributed by Maisha Rahman. Also note that she has made reference to White Mughals, a book of colonial history by one of UK's great historians - William Dalrymple. Fortunately the book is available online - but I am NOT asking anyone to read this book, as it has already been selected for a research paper.

Here is the FULL Report:

I am late as usual. But I must say that words cannot express what I felt during and after the class on Friday. As I entered the class I felt, like the first time, that I had been let into a secret lair; that I was a member of an exclusive group of minds teeming with knowledge like the thousands of books around them. 

As I entered, SAT Essays, which is one of the most horrifying parts of the SATs, were being discussed. If one does not have a firm grasp on the format of the essays, complete with short introduction, agreement/disagreement, the examples and the conclusion, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to score high. I can recall how horrified my friends and I were when we found out how much the essay contributed to the total score. I remember searching far and wide throughout the internet learning and relearning about formats, whizzing through the Sparknotes plot summaries of complicated books. I realized how much easier it would have been if I had done SAT classes at LOGOPHILES. The class discussed the format Perfectly and Clearly – including all the little tips and tricks which I've learned through my extensive internet searches – e.g. how writing two pages gets you 8+, neat handwriting earns more marks. 

However, most importantly, we discussed the examples – such wide ranging and such thought provoking ones. I am certain that these will carry a large amount of value when the essays are being scored. Everything from Huckleberry Finn to Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale was discussed and I enjoyed every minute of it. Though one essay topic in particular had a profound effect on me; "Should heroes be defined as people who say what we think when we ourselves lack the courage to say it?"

Firstly, I am incredibly thankful that that essay did not come during my exam, I would have been completely baffled by it. Secondly, I was quite shocked about my own male chauvinistic mindset. Not once did a female character come to my mind. (Well, I must confess, that I was thinking about Batman [the Dark Knight] throughout because he never speaks out about his actions). However, once you brought it up, I was quite surprised by how many examples that I could think of. Even Daisy Miller (though I dislike her), could serve as one of the examples – she fought against the boundaries that society places on a woman through her actions, while she has to don it all without protesting. But not once did she, or any other woman, have the "privilege" of entering my patriarchy-programmed mind. I also realized my dislike for women (I myself being a woman), since I find most of them unnecessarily complex and annoying (I am no exception!). However, I always thought that I had the capability of recognizing excellence in women in spite of my prejudice, but I was proved wrong. This proved to be the case for many of us who were present at the class on Friday morning.

I am also incredibly glad that the topic of my research paper is somewhat taking shape. I had never ever thought about there being a variety in the way in which the West viewed the East. I took it for granted that the westerners were stone-hearted beings, hardly human, who viewed my ancestors as uneducated and foolish beggars and slaves. Never once did I think that India had a profound effect on any of them. In my mind, the British lived in grand houses with fifty or more servants bowing to their every need. However, now it is replaced by the quaint picture of a white man wearing Indian clothes and a turban. I can tell you that that image is quite hard to swallow. And to think that Kirkpatrick (one of the principal characters in the historical account of White Mughals) was not the only one! It makes one wonder why such information is left out of the school-room history books. It makes one realize how one sided history can be and how the education system can be utilized to manipulate the masses into thinking in whichever way the authority want us to think (this concept can be used to understand Foucault and Edward Said - Mamun's comment). 

I here recall the chapter on Charles D'Oyly's beautiful sketches on Dhaka (I was required to leaf through the book on Dhaka's History). They were so incredible and intricately detailed. One common theme I saw was how Dhaka always had huge magnificent buildings but right beside it, in stark contrast, would be a poor person's house or belongings. No sooner had I finished admiring D'Oyly's work, you took us on another adventure: Art since 1950.

I was astounded by how much art is affected by the times and situation. I had never thought about art in such a way. I simply thought that art was used to portray someone's emotions. But I supposed what I overlooked was that the emotions of people are affected greatly by their environment and art itself is a wonderful portrayal of that. We talked about pop art, minimalistic art, surrealism and abstract expressionism. One piece of art which intrigued me was Roy Lichtenstein's Look Mickey! If I had seen that piece in a gallery, I would have not paid it much attention. But the Friday Morning Session has made me realize that anything can be ART. And Look Mickey displayed an important truth about society: we might think that we are achieving greatness but are in the process obliviously trapping ourselves. Examples can be the corporate slaves of today's society or the black slaves of Southern America who were released from slavery only to be bound in a different type of slavery in the Industrial North.

Thereafter we moved onto more serious topics such as: Does Moral Action Depend on Moral Reasoning? We discussed a few brilliant articles on the topic. We learned about the Deng Xiao Pang principles pitted against Gandhi's principles about moral reasoning. The second topic was: Does the Free Market Corrode Moral Character? My first answer was an absolute YES. But I realized that I was being shallow again (I just remembered my responses on the question of Hero!). The world is not black and white and the grey areas are the most important. To form an argument for or against such a topic, one must try to keep all factors in mind. We were asked to look up B.F. Skinners Science and Human Behavior; its antecedent and its consequences. We also discussed about a brilliant, though somewhat chilling, study about morality and logic – through an anecdote where two groups of people are asked to consider Killing a Man for the Benefit of Many. I learned that logic is not always the answer.

These discussions stirred our minds and instigated our critical thinking abilities it to achieve higher levels. The class was brilliant and interesting and left me pondering about it for a very long time. I even had a discussion with my father about what we did in class and how I had been looking at things in an shamefully shallow manner my entire life: that my eyes are finally opening. He took special interest in the last experiment about Morality VS Logic. 

I am very much looking forward to many more classes of this kind.

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