I'm more of a photographer than a writer, so you should expect that I will regularly contribute photos from my every day life here. I'm starting that off with a few obligatory/touristy downtown shots. I take the train all over the city every day, generally to the North or Northwest side, so I'm also including some pictures from my commutes this weekend.
Shakespeare once said, "A little fire is quickly trodden out, which, being suffer'd, rivers cannot quench." Luckily for me, there was not even the littlest of fires. There were, however, several firefighters.
I was peacefully putting the shrimp & cabbage filling into the egg roll wrappers while the deep-fryer oil heated up. I did two quick test runs and noticed the finished product came out a little darker brown than I'd like, so I turned the heat down some and went back to folding more egg rolls.
I've fiddle-faddled with the idea of posting about being a Shimer student and having a chronic illness (mine's rheumatoid arthritis), alternately deciding that it's not appropriate subject matter for the blog and that it's highly appropriate for it. I still don't know, actually, but, as the kids are saying these days, whatevs. In any case, this is not a serious analysis of how I do college with a chronic condition. It's a list of things I do on Thursdays. By way of explanation, Shimer allows you three absences per core class per semester. I ran through those very quickly. I have no classes on Thursday, however, and schedule absolutely nothing but rest on them if possible. I can't schedule flares, or bad days, but if I'm lucky they hit on a Thursday. In any case, this is what I do when I'm home sick or it's a Thursday, whichever. It's also a pretty good cross-section of what I do for fun, which , believe it or not, does exist at Shimer.
This concludes my hastily constructed list of what I do for fun when resting. It's got extra veracity because I'm in the middle of a flare right now and everything. I'd appreciate some feedback from you, lovely readers, on whether this is a subject that seems appropriate for the blog. I also welcome any questions, whether about the mechanics of putting stars on a ceiling or about being a Shimer student with a chronic illness. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Academic Earth is a website that streams lectures on a wide variety of subjects from college professors at some of the biggest and bestest schools (Hahvahd and the like). It's a great resource to be able to sit in on these classes for free and learn.
Here is a lecture by Yale Professor Amy Hungerford about one of my all time favorite books, Franny and Zooey, which I just finished reading for the fourth time.
I greatly enjoyed this lecture. I watched it while on the toilet, taking a crap and clipping my toenails. I tell you this totally unnecessary piece of information because I had the same experience on the toilet I would have had sitting in that lecture hall.
Now, you can and should watch the Shimer Sample classes on our website. But don't for a minute think that you have gotten the same experience watching a Shimer discussion in your bedroom, office, restroom, or solarium that you got by being there. You only experience a Shimer class by participating.
Also, if you watch the lecture or read or have read the book, bear in mind that, in Amy's opinion (At Shimer, we are all on a first name basis, and Prof. Hungerford is in our house, hence, Amy), anyway, in Amy's opinion, the character of Lane is a Yale student. In my opinion, the characters Franny and Zooey are Shimerians at heart.
Among Shimer's more notorious activities includes the star-studded, no-talent-required variety show that takes place every semester. It goes by the name of Orange Horse. (This, I believe, is the name of a coffee shop in Waukegan where the original show was started--does anyone know for sure?)
Starting around seven in the evening during the middle of semester, and on a weekend with Weekend College, Orange Horse gives Shimerites the opportunity to show off what they're good at, or not, or just act goofy, or all three, in front of the rest of their peers. Normally there's a great deal of music, poetry reading, acting, jokes, and everything in between. This semester was no exception.
We have some wonderful regular alums who come back every semester, or every year, to rehash old traditions and make new ones as well. Eric, who graduated from Mt. Carroll forty years ago, keeps Shimer history alive with his songs about Francis Shimer and... well, other things.
We have solos and group jams, both of which draw cheering adulation.
And lest you think it's all music (which is only about half of it), you get the weird jokes involving clowns and other things.
Beyond that, we had poetry recited from Percy Blysse Shelley and Robert W. Service; readings from J.D. Salinger; an impersonation of a religious devotee on the El train; improv metal; and an especially anticipated guitar jam from Our Dean, David Shiner, doing "Sandman" (Dewey Bunnell, made famous by America) and a few other songs with another Shimer student, Pat.
Orange Horse brings the entire community together; I suppose the feeling can be somewhat equated to a home football game at a big university, except there's no opposing team and no contact sports (well, usually not), no weather to contend with, and considerably better halftime entertainment. It's one of my favorite times in the semester, and I've already got plans for the next one. Let's just say they involve Team America, Kate Chopin, and the "Morning Song of Senlin," and leave it at that.
Three-ish years ago, the mayor of Chicago decided that all people in Chicago should read books together. So he instituted the One Book One Chicago program, wherein he picks one book for the city to read twice a year. Being a Great Books school, Shimer of course doesn't miss out on this, and we usually do theater activities around the choice of the book.
We don't just do typical shows of the book, though. Last year one of the selections was The Crucible, by Arthur Miller; instead of the play, which was the easy example, we did readings from the court hearings of the House of Un-American Activities Committee, calling forth people who were blacklisted--actors, singers, artists, everyone in between--to testify against communists during the height of the Red Scare. Another selection was Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff--Shimer put on a slideshow based around his work The Painted Word. We try to do things differently--look at the themes in different contexts, connect the literary to the literal.
This semester, though, all the reading is coming straight from the book. It's a work that speaks for itself.
By March or April of 2008, word had drifted to me that there was “some sort of great books school, somewhere in Chicago.” By that time, I had dropped out of Bard College for personal reasons outside the scope of this post, then taken a few classes at Columbia College, and then found work at an independent book store. I had graduated High School in 2006, and not set foot in a classroom since May, 2007. The goal of returning to school was bouncing around in my mind, ever so vaguely, though I still thought I’d return to Bard.
Then, one fateful evening, on a whim, I googled “Great Books Chicago.” Long story short, I fell in love, submitted my application at the end of April, visited and was accepted in May, deposited in June and enrolled in August.
There are two points to this little story:
More importantly, one of the first things I learned here was that temporal age is kind of meaningless. Some of the younger students are far more mature than some of the much older students. Finding out people’s temporal ages is just confusing.
Also, this is me. I don't usually wear a feather boa, I swear!
I'm Sloane, a first year student from Chicago's northwest side. I'm here to get this party started.
So you see, there's a lighter side to Shimer that not too many people get to see until they get here. You can sit in on a class, but to be honest we totally show off when someone sits in. At least, I do. :)
Also, this is my face:
It's reading some Thomas Hobbes for Social Sciences II.
Also also, sometimes I draw comics. Often they are about things that happen to me in class, things happen in stuff we read, or stuff that happens at Shimer in general. Such as this delightful scene from Hamlet:
Liberal education is defined as an education based primarily on the liberal arts, emphasizing the development of intellectual abilities as opposed to the acquisition of professional skills. Many people would agree that Shimer College is the quintessential liberal arts college. At Shimer, we don’t just study the liberal arts; we read the liberal arts. To understand psychology, we read Freud, Chodorow, and Erikson. When studying natural sciences we read Mendel and Darwin, Dalton and Lavosier. Philosophers like Foucault and Derrida provide us with an understanding of post-structuralist philosophy. These are just a few examples, but the point is clear: Shimer’s rigorous Great Books curriculum and personally-driven pedagogy cater to the method of liberal education. Therefore Shimer students will not be focusing on vocational skills, and as a result might continue to feel as confused about their career path as they might have in high school.
I’m no exception. I’ve had more ideas for careers than I can count, but I’ve had trouble feeling completely confident in any of them. I want my career to be intellectually challenging, helpful to others, and somehow practical – requirements that make it difficult to narrow down a career path. But since coming to Shimer, I’ve had a couple of my first reasonably-thought-out career ideas, which I figured it would be appropriate to share here.
The first career idea which I gave serious thought to was a high-school teacher. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely hated high school and found myself completely unfulfilled in that setting. But upon reflection, I realized that at least one of my high school teachers did, in fact, have quite an influence on me, and helped steer me towards my now-realized passion for learning. When taking summer school (in order to exploit a loophole in my high-school’s graduation requirements, allowing me to escape a year early), I took a writing course. The class only had 4 students. We met in a small, office-sized room, and kept our desks arranged in a circle for discussion. Like Shimer’s liberal method, my teacher's didn’t have lectures or rigid lesson plans. We simply analyzed and critiqued each other’s writing, discussing what made each piece more or less effective. We discussed general principles of good writing and tried to apply them to our papers. The fact that I was really learning – and feeling fulfilled by the process – finally hit me when one day, I found myself ignoring the lunch-bell to continue talking to my teacher about how to improve one of my essays.
This is the type of role that I could picture myself in. While it would always be fun to teach students who are passionate about learning, I have a specific interest in students who are like I was in high school -- students who haven't yet found scholarly inspiration. However, there are two interests of mine that this career path lacks: outreach work and photography. I've given serious consideration to teaching in developing countries, obviously because the people there are in more need of help and I wouldn't find myself stuck in suburbia. Furthermore, I've found myself more and more serious about photography, and my long-put-away desire to be a photojournalist has been creeping its way back into my life. Of course, photojournalism is quite the ideal career in photography -- photojournalists are privileged to see historical events in person all over the world, creating images that will be seen by many. But it wasn't until recently that I realized that one role could possibly blend the three ideas together. If there is some way that I could teach in several countries, taking photographs in my spare time, that could be the best career idea I've had yet. I could still focus on those students who are less-than-motivated, but meanwhile do my own photojournalism and post it online.
At this point the decisions I make leading up to a successful career are quite subject to change, and I'm not entirely sure how this latest idea could be worked out. I still have four and a half semesters left at Shimer and I'm sure my ideas will develop in that time. I’m not confident enough to say for certain that I will be doing any one thing with my life, but I am confident that the enriching education that I am getting at Shimer will leave me prepared for whatever next move I choose.
The opinions expressed by the Shimer bloggers are theirs alone, are subject to change upon each blogger's reflection, and do not reflect the opinions of Shimer College. Shimer is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any of the information supplied on this blog and strongly encourages you to contact the Shimer Admission Office directly if you have questions about Shimer. The entries on this blog belong to their authors and to Shimer College. Shimer encourages and deeply values discussion, but the college is not responsible for what is posted by commenters and reserves the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever. Deletions will likely be made if commentary is commercial, irrelevant, abusive, profane, rude, or destructively inaccurate. Shimer students on the regular staff of this blog are modestly compensated for their efforts.