Eastman is known across the world as a conservatory that emphasizes academic study as well as performance practice. However, for entering freshmen last fall, Eastman’s academically-oriented humanities department leaves students with a sober attitude toward the curriculum.The general consensus for the humanities classes of fall, 2003 could be summed up with the words “boring,” “tedious,” “uninteresting” and even “painful.” More importantly, no one seems to care about these courses and everyone just wants to get back into the practice room.This attitude, exhibited by most students, results not from a general disdain for academic study, but rather from the monotony of the actual humanities coursework. Literature chosen for these courses is tailored to a student who is not learned in the classics, thereby alienating those of us who have already studied “The Iliad” or “The Odyssey.”Organization of class time is also tailored to the student who thrives in a discussion-oriented environment, but this alienates those of us who crave variety in class structure or are tired of hearing our peers say the same things over and over again. Whatever the case may be, the general “catch-all” style of Eastman’s Humanities courses turns everyone off in his or her own special way.In my personal Humanities experience, the teacher’s approach to class time, combined with the same few voices always speaking up in class discussions, resulted in a completely monotonous and predictable class. Writing how you feel about chapter two and allowing class discussion free-reign are not good teaching techniques – at least not all the time. Structured conversation would be more appropriate, or even a lecture every now and then. Whatever situation a freshman might have experienced for him or herself, I believe that there is a better way to teach literature than the way Eastman teaches it.Class time aside, parts of the humanities program are successful. The use of multimedia and referential reading assignments, such as literary criticism of a particular work or a movie adaptation of a Shakespeare play, offer a lot of insight into our studies. In-class movies even seem fun – at least until the following week comes and I have to use examples from the movie in a paper. Contrary to what others might tell you, the amount of required writing was appropriate to a three-credit, 100 level course.All in all, the humanities program might only need a few changes to become more successful, or at least functional. A published list of literature prior to registration and reconsideration of class time usage would help. But most importantly, these would help to sway students’ attitudes toward a more positive approach to academic study at Eastman.Mitchell can be reached at bmitchell@campustimes.org.

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Editor’s Note (5/4/24): This article is no longer being updated. For our most up to date coverage, look for articles…