Shimer tries to stay away from tests and that's pretty great. There are no late-night cram sessions for the next day's quiz on electromagnetic induction, and you will never find yourself scrambling to memorize the dates and times during which all the important Federalist Papers were written. It's all good and dandy and you think you're getting off easy. Easy that is, until your first paper is assigned.
Writing a Shimer essay is a bit of an undertaking. Not only are you facing the grading eye of a faciliator who knows academic writing like the back of their hand, but you're always dealing with having to construct some original idea upon which to base your paper. I once wrote an essay breaking down what Derrida actually means in his brilliant but rather opaque "Différance," but that's the only truly expository essay I've had to write. I chose it as a paper topic because I felt intimidated by assigment and didn't think I had a good enough understanding of Derrida to really speak about him in a critical sense. This instance was an anomaly and probably the least I would be able to get away with. My other Shimer paper topics have been more creative and more exciting, which is the typical expectation.
I once wrote about how communism would mean the downfall of the fashion industry (my Social Sciences I class had several rousing discussions about Marx), and for another paper, I discussed the Equal Right Ammendment, posing Mary Wollstonecraft and Carol Gilligan's viewpoints against each other. And all that was just my freshman year. As the readings get harder, so do the essays, but this is something I think my peers and myself have handled beautifully. With every paper that's due, whether it's on Hegel or thermodynamics, come incredibly thoughtful and innovative theses. Shimer approaches papers as an opportunity to better explore and elaborate on a concept in your class that you found particularly resonant. This opportunity is very well utilized.
So I have two papers to complete. One is due tomorrow. I'm writing about entropy and it will be more of an explanation of the phenomenon than anything else (not unlike my Derrida paper) because while I adore the natural sciences, they are hardly my strong point. Then there's my essay for Social Sciences IV. It's due on Friday. For that I am taking Geertz's conception of "thick description" in anthropology and seeing if it applies to the Foucault's conception of the way the discourse on human sexuality ought to be.
The latter paper topic is, I'm afraid, still in its more gestational period. No fretting, though. It will be turned in on time and come the end of the day on Friday, I will be happy and paper-free. It's the very thought that keeps me trucking. And if it turns out my papers were a bust, Shimer faciliators always offer the very generous chance to rewrite.
Alright. I should actually probably go work on the essays. Writing about writing papers feel strange after awhile. It's a little too meta for my tastes, and probably not the most productive form of procrastination.