Monday, May 20, 2013

The University of Minnesota, High School Literature, and College Credit

I recently read an article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune opinion page called ‘What does University of Minnesota have against classics?’ by Mark Bauerlein. The article focuses on a University of Minnesota program called College in the Schools (CIS), which is "a long-running initiative that helps high schools develop rigorous courses in different subjects and awards students university credits". Bauerlein targets the CIS English and Literature course and claims that the suggested reading course actively excludes classics and is restricted to contemporary works that highlight multiculturalism and social identities. He claims that the University refuses to award credit to students if their high school has chosen to "teach pre-1950s English and American literature". He also adds that the suggested CIS syllabi fail Minnesota's state reading standards for grades 11-12, which state: "Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature...". Bauerlein concludes that the University should no longer pressure and entice students and schools with college credit into neglecting the classics.

Upon my own examination of the CIS program, I found that not all of Bauerlein's claims are true. His biggest argument is that the University refuses to award credit to students if their high school has chosen to teach classic literature, which is not the case. The CIS book list is a "recommended reading list" that "may be used at the individual instructor's discretion". This leads me to believe that while the program seeks to recommend literature that highlights multiculturalism and social identity, the exclusion of classic literature is not intended. That being said, classic literature has an indispensable value in English language and literature education. Studying the classics provides a strong sense of English grammar and vocabulary, and is critical in the journey of developing writing skills as it imparts a keener attention to detail. Furthermore, studying the classics has much of the same value as studying history. The stories are not archaic tales that are not relevant to our times, but rather present problems similar to the ones that exist today, if not the same. Reading the classics is a way to learn from the past and gain another perspective on our complex world.

I also noticed the emphasis on the credit value of the CIS program. On the Frequently-Asked-Questions portion of the program website, it is repeatedly stated that the course is worth credit at the University of Minnesota. This is even more evident when the CIS program is compared to Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. The CIS website states that a major difference between the CIS program and AP/IB courses is the guaranteed credit. AP or IB courses may or may not translate into college credit despite perfect scores on their respective exams. The website also provides a complete list of other universities and colleges that recognize the program. As a student that will be attending college in the fall, I know how appealing the possibility of college credit can be. I agree with Bauerlein’s opinion that credit is used as an enticement for students. I believe that it is crucial to evaluate the educational and personal value of a subject or program for oneself, rather than focusing on the reward in credit. Credit is temporary and only applicable while a student is in school. Personal fulfillment and knowledge are valid forever.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Just Keep Swimming

It's that time of year. College decisions are being released, and I don't know about most of you, but I can't help but feel discouraged sometimes. I remember when I was a plucky freshman, motivated and fearless. Where did that Aditi go? I don't know. Part of me feels that she slowly disintegrated as high school got harder and harder. Some of these college decisions seem to squash that Aditi completely out of existence.

I'm one of those people that gets sick easily when I'm feeling especially blue. It's a terrible combination. On Thursday night, after getting another rejection, I came down with a fever. I spent my Friday eating Cream of Mushroom soup and watching Finding Nemo. It was definitely well-timed, because it reminded me: 

Maybe it's childish, but remembering this made me feel slightly better.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Literally The Best Thing Ever: The Biological Clock

Scientists may have discovered the "grandfather biological clock", an enzyme present in most of earth's life-forms that appears to keep us running on an internal 24-hour metabolic cycle, regardless of whether we ever see the sun.

How ridiculously mind blowing is that?

Monday, December 31, 2012

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

College Apps? Check.

I finished my college apps. I FINISHED MY COLLEGE APPS.

Sorry, it just feels amazing to say that. Now that I'm done, I realize that they aren't even that bad. It's just that they push you to get your shit together. And your future depends on them. But remember this, the college that you go to doesn't determine your success; you do. (I hope I remember this when I'm getting my rejection letters in April).

Here are some things I learned along the way:

1. Be organized. Seriously. I quickly learned that in order to be successful, I had to keep a list of all my colleges and their requirements and deadlines. Trust me, it helped a lot.

2. Be Prepared. Do yourself a HUGE favor and finalize your list of colleges and research their requirements/deadlines before you start senior year. The summer is perfect for casual work, because let's be honest: there will be moments over the summer you're bored out of your mind and need something to do. Make use of that!

3. Don't Stress Out. Easier said than done, I know. But I also know that when I'm stressing out, I can't think clearly. Thinking clearly is vital to doing a good job. Something to help with this: SUBMIT APPS BEFORE THEIR DEADLINES. In case something goes wrong, you won't be reduced to a pile of stress and tears because there's time to hopefully get it fixed.

4. Ask for help! Don't be afraid to approach friends, teachers, counselors! They love helping you and want you to succeed in life. Also, don't put off asking for help until it's too late. If that does happen, better late than never!

5. Celebrate. Every time I finished an app, I found that it was really helpful to reward myself and relax. It kept my motivation going. Just don't go overboard.

Now that I'm done with apps, I have 2 days left to my winter break. I think I might marathon Parks and Recreation...

or do my homework.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


“Sorry you didn't get a cookie earlier! You can have one when we go back to class,” my friend told me. It was the day after the election and my friend had brought treats to celebrate.

“Don’t worry about it. I can’t eat them anyway, remember?” I replied easily.

I smiled inwardly. Three years ago, the same question would have gotten a different response. The voice replying would have betrayed reluctance and craving. Now, it was automatic.

During my freshman year, after attending a seminar on lacto-vegetarianism, I switched diets. It wasn't that hard to make the decision after listening to the compelling arguments from the seminar. The fact that my parents would try with me, made it considerably easier as well.

The hard part was actually following through. Lacto-vegetarianism involves a diet free of meat, eggs, and gelatin but allows dairy products. Giving up meat wasn't that difficult since my mom didn't like cooking meat anyway. Eggs and gelatin, however, were a completely different story. When I decided to become a lacto-vegetarian, I didn't think about the fact that almost every commonly sold baked treat in America contains eggs. Facing this fact made me question whether or not I could handle my decision.

I started to avoid places more likely to test my resolve, especially the grocery store. It was no longer the place where my sister and I loved going, simply to eat the free kids’ cookies. It was no longer the place where I could nag my mom to buy a box of chocolate sprinkle cupcakes. Instead, every time I walked through an aisle, I could feel food mocking me. The grocery store was suddenly a foreign territory.  

However, resistance became easier over time as I became diligent about reminding myself why I became a lacto-vegetarian in the first place. I started to gain the strength to decline whenever I was offered something delicious and sure to contain eggs. I no longer felt my heart break every time one of my friends bought a brownie after lunch. Soon, it was becoming more and more natural not to eat dessert. The next time my mom asked if I wanted to go grocery shopping with her, I thought I couldn't be more ready.

As soon as we entered the store, I knew I was wrong. Right inside the doors, a showcase of cookies had been set up. They were the frosted kind with sprinkles. My favorite. I imagined the doughy feeling between my teeth and smooth frosting on my tongue. My mouth watered. I ran out of the store and back to the car to forget I ever knew what cookies tasted like.

Eventually, my friends intervened. For my sixteenth birthday, I was gifted a 250-page, lacto-vegetarian cookbook.

“Just because you’re a vegetarian doesn't mean you can’t enjoy dessert,” my friend reminded me as I finished flipping through the book. I didn't know whether to cry or laugh. Somewhere along the way I had forgotten that my decision only involved eliminating meat, eggs, and gelatin from my diet–  it didn't mean I had to give up my favorite treats!

Immediately, I knew I would make the frosted cookies first. I found the recipe in the book and spent an entire afternoon making my first lacto-vegetarian frosted cookies. When I finally took my first bite, all the tears my sweet tooth had cried since I made the switch melted away. I lavished in the doughy feeling that I had tried to forget. I savored the feel of frosting on my tongue. I was satisfied.

Becoming a lacto-vegetarian was one of the best decisions I've ever made and taught me some crucial lessons. Self-discipline is vital. Don’t lose track of the goal. And most importantly, where there is a will, there is a way. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012