Monday, June 27, 2011

Freedom and Justice begins...

Today was the first day of classes and I am pleased to say that I actually enjoyed it. The class began at 9:00 AM in what I would call a medium sized lecture hall (I will try to get a picture soon), and started off with professor Kramnick's hour and a half long lecture regarding what the course is about and how it would be run. At the end of that, we took a moment to take roll and learn where everyone was from (I can now add Israel and the Netherlands to the list of foreign children).

For the next part of the class we were broken up into four discussion groups of fifteen kids each (sixty kids in the class) and moved to different rooms around campus. Each of these groups was assigned a TA who would oversee our discussions, give us topics, and coach us through our conflicting ideas. My TA's name is Simon, and I suppose I can add Australia to the list now too, because Simon is Australian and British and has an accent that somehow molds the two together. It was funny because at first I was really trying to figure out where he was from and I kept going back and forth between Britain and Australia, depending on what word he had just said, and then it turned out he was from both.

Our discussion began instantly though, as Simon gave us our first topic: What is freedom? He broke our group of fifteen into smaller groups of four (he included himself in one of them) and we began arguing about what makes a person truly free. The definition of freedom that I came up with, despite the views of some of my group members, was that freedom is the possibility to think, act, and be as you please. I don't know how someone could argue with that, and I certainly don't know how someone could beat me in an argument against that, but a girl in my group tried nonetheless and I thought it was extremely helpful to get someone else's point of view so I could better understand the different stances that people could possibly take on this matter.

After the discussion we had a rather long lunch, and then came back to our discussion rooms for a writing session. This portion was great for me, because going into it, I thought that we were going to be taught how to write and how to think, even though we all know how to do both of those things, but instead, we were told simply to write our views on the topic at hand. Our writing did not have to be structured, and it did not have to follow any person's opinion but our own. As much as I hate to admit it, I loved picking apart other people's arguments and showing how mine was better. I feel like I had some very good points and examples and I am very excited for my TA to read it. He said that we would be revising these papers as well, so that just means that I get to make a good paper great, which I also love to do.

I really feel like I am in a college level environment here at Cornell and I feel like the children around me are truly here to learn, unlike some of the kids back home. The many views here will surely stimulate my mind and enable me to expand my own ideas on what is right and wrong in society, since that is pretty much what the course is all about. I look forward to continuing this course and hopefully it will open my mind to new opinions so that I can grow not only as a student, but as an individual.

And by the way, I did laundry for the first time last night! Just thought I should let everyone know about my astonishing accomplishment. Shout-out to Taylor Doty for helping me.


  1. Joe,
    It sounds like you got a good start on class material. And between you and Nick, you're going to know someone from every country around the world!!!
    Hang in there!

  2. Joe,

    Here it is the first day of class and we've already accomplished one of our main goals: you mastered the rudiments of doing your own laundry.

    Now that you have the important stuff under control you can focus your attention on that other stuff--your studies. Let the fun times begin.

  3. Hi Joe!
    Sounds like you will learn much about freedom and justice and how to form and defend a sound case. These are wonderful life lessons and will serve you well...especially if you are truly open to hearing what is true in what others are saying as well as what's not. YAY for doing your laundry!! Love you!!!