That Sophomore Something

Written by

It takes a certain degree of intellectual comfort to decide you’ve conceived a brilliant new direction for a century-old course. Writing it up and sending it to the entire roster of CC praeceptors, the Committee on the Core, and Deans Yatrakis and Quigley, on the other hand, takes an almost suicidal hubris. One sophomore did, and a bemused recipient passed the e-mail on to Bwog:

Date: 11 December 2007 16:17:23 EST
To: [redacted]
Subject: Columbia’s Core

To whom it may concern,

   You are receiving my email because you are on the Core Committee or are a preceptor for a Contemporary Civilization class.  In my final essay for Contemporary Civilization, the material of the essay required that I either deny my own words or take some form of action.  Attached you will find the essay that has propelled me, headlong, to this email.  I think you will find that it embodies the essence of the Core Curriculum, especially CC, and is an example of what I consider to be the true power of the Core: the push to a critical evaluation and re-evaluation of the world in which we live and to action to change that world for the better.  I hope that you will take the short amount of time necessary to read the document (and perhaps a little longer to consider the way it could affect your own reality).

Thank you for your time,


CC ’10

The attached 12-page paper put Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed in dialogue with the Leviathan, and pronounces that “CC still maintains remnants of the authoritarian view of education found in Hobbes,” with suggestions for non-canonical texts that might be introduced to introduce an alternate perspective. The conclusion reads as follows:

“This essay is my reflection on my current situation.  However, my realization of the structure in which I reside is not enough to achieve “liberation”, which can only be the result of a collective effort.  Thus, I appeal to you to take into consideration the implications of my praxis and form your own.  The syllabus need not be discarded immediately, it is comprised of wonderful books, but perhaps the inclusion of another source, or a class decision regarding the optional choices in the syllabus would constitute a step in the right direction.”

Ah, the brash naivete of youth!

Tags: ,


  1. wait  

    we can figure out who this is. whose class had such a ridiculous prompt?

    • well

      my cc prompt a few years back was "in order to understand why it sometimes snows in winter, do we need a knowledge of divinely revealed texts or an inherent faith in god?"

      i said we needed a weatherman. my teacher said very well then, here is your d on this final.

  2. lame  

    make this fucktard take a science course.

  3. i'll  

    bet this was a hunger striker or a hunger striker wannabe.

  4. Hannah Montana  

    I got nerve

  5. can i please  

    read this essay so i can just how toolish this person guess is that it is a male, don't know why.

  6. wow...  

    "Propelled me, headlong, to this email?" Like you got hurled through a windshield? It would explain the brain damage.

    And "praxis?" Schmuck. You give chutzpah a bad name. You're going to look back on this in a year and wonder, "Jesus, what the fuck was I on about?"

  7. audacity

    I admire this person's audacity. Sure, he or she is somewhat pompous, but who among you can honestly claim not to be? The message has merit.

  8. Hobbes

    Clearly this individual has no idea what Hobbes was trying to accomplish. Otherwise, he or she would have recognized the singular importance of the Leviathan to Western thought and its impact upon all that came later.

    And yes, Hobbes is more important than anyone on his or her list. If you disagree, then you too are wrong.

  9. curious  

    I want to see how this kid came to this conclusion. Can you guys post the entire essay?

  10. freud  

    i like how you guys try to rationalize this. the guy has a problem. he needs help.

  11. if...'re going to be so phenomenally, stupendously full of yourself as to send your essay to the deans, then at the very least try not to butcher the English language:

    "The true power of the Core: the push to a critical evaluation and re-evaluation of the world in which we live and to action to change that world for the better."

    Not that I mind when they shoot themselves in the food for us. I keep noting this: their prose is atrocious. Maybe it's impossible to write well when you're being overweening and elf-righteous, or maybe if they actually learned the core, instead of valorously setting their mighty sophomore brains to making it safe for humanity, they might actually learn how to write.

  12. shot in the food  

    stop butchering the English language, Sam.

  13. Gambler  

    10$ he didn't read all the books.

  14. arrrrghh

    I hate comma splices.

  15. writing

    This person certainly isn't the strongest writer. Word to the wise: don't belittle your own phrases by putting them in quotes (i.e. "in order to achieve 'liberation,'....").

  16. writing issues

    This syllabus needn't be discarded immediately Dean Yatrakis... No. Maybe after the Christmas break.

  17. pissed off  

    What the hell is a marching band doing out on Amsterdam and 117th or so at 1AM!?

  18. The Leviathan  



  19. comprise\compose  

    the alphabet comprises 26 letters.

    the alphabet is composed of 26 letters.


    this 12-page masterwork of self-righteousness comprises far too much pomposity and seems composed entirely of misused dollar-words. (ps. "praxis"? shoot yourself)

    • Amen  

      and hosannah. Supererogatorily prolix bloviators of lilliputian wit ought to be introduced to a vicious volley of feet up their posteriors.

      And "shot in the food"--I guess that's what they did in a way, no?

  20. this is why  

    ...i read bwog. it's comforting to know that the paper i'm working on won't be anywhere near as bad as the one cited in this post.

  21. ahhhhh  

    the naivete of youth indeed. silly kid.

  22. Yeah,  

    this guy needs to take a science class... and possibly spend more time reading in general. (It's nice to know that there are people like this out there. I feel like my own problems are somehow less severe when I read or hear about these students. I don't mean to be judgemental at all: I genuinely think this person needs help.)

  23. you kno?  

    I feel bad for his instructor. The instructor can't give the kid a bad grade now because the paper reeks of self-righteousness AND it's publicized. The kid will at least get a B+ on this paper for his "effort." Douche.

    Faux activists like this kid should never have been allowed into the hallowed grounds of Hamilton - not even his college application.

    • anonymous

      I'm just waiting for some kid to turn in a paper like this to me - s/he will learn that we can indeed assign an 'F' if we so please.

      • excellent

        a professor/TA with integrity? a professor/TA who reads bwog?

        • Disturbed TA

          Hi all. I'm a Ph.D. student in the social sciences who has TA'd some theoretical courses, though not Contemporary Civilization itself. I just wanted to say that, despite the cynical tone of some of the responses on this thread (which I guess this blog is known for), I would be happy to get this level of engagement from one of my students, and I think this person should be applauded for their passion for the subject and for Columbia as an Institution.

          Yes, forwarding your Civ paper to half of the College administration is annoying. But one of the highest values in education is to be annoying. Socrates annoyed people, constantly, by asking questions and refusing to accept the premise of anything he was told.

          Students, please be contentious. And respect each other. There are more important things at stake in education than following directions.

          And as an aside, students who JUST want to follow directions are really hard to teach. Therefore, when I see a bunch of people attacking one of their peers for caring about the subject too much, particularly when they attack the person as an 'activist douchebag' from the comfortable position of anonymity, it makes me profoundly worried about Columbia as an institution.

          • Wait...what?  

            “Students, please be contentious. And respect each other.”

            So you want us to fight all the time, but respect each other? Thanks for the idealism, buddy.

          • Disturbed TA

            Yes, there is a difference between the two. That is why we distinguish between legitimate and ad hominem argument. That is why it is rude to call somebody an idiot even though it can be polite to tell them they are wrong. This is called being civil.

          • Contentious Student  

            You're too naive to be a PhD student. You are lying. God I hope not that you grade my HWs and papers. You give some of the dumbest arguments imaginable. I can't begin to wonder what your dissertation must be like.
            Hell, you're probably the kid who wrote the essay! and you just appeared on bwog to defend yourself behind the anonymity of a disturbed TA.
            Geez, PhD students don't write so shittily.

          • Disturbed TA

            Look, what you've just posted exemplifies the lack of civility on this campus I am talking about. I am indeed a Ph.D. student. I will email you privately from my UNI, since I doubt that you will believe me otherwise.

            I didn't write my first post because I wanted to get into a flame war. I wrote it because reposting somebody's email so they can exposed to ridicule, and putting them up for ridicule PRECISELY because they have stuck their neck out, is messed up.

            A lot of people here seem to be operating under the assumption that this is a comment thread, nobody knows who anyone else is, at that therefore anything goes. I'm not going to get into all the implications of that. I just want to say that the cynicism and lack of respect that this seems to have produced makes my job harder, because it erodes the trust that makes a discussion section (in principle) worthwhile.

          • Contentious Student  

            What a sneaky way to "prove" that you're a TA! - by asking me to reveal my identity first! No, m'friend, the best way to prove that you're a TA is to argue like a TA should.

            You commit two mistakes. Firstly, it seems to me that you believe bwog is wrong in posting about and ridiculing this kid's essay. Bwog is not the Spec. Bwog has no pretension to any standard of objective journalism. Bwog selects what it wants us to read, and we come here willingly to love it or hate it.
            Secondly, there is much civility on this campus, but this civility ends when someone provokes incivility. This student, by having the guts to send his paper to every concerned faculty imaginable, SHOULD EXPECT CYNICISM AND CRITICISM. After all, if you're going to send your paper to an entire department of TAs and professors, why not just send it to the rest of the school?
            In fact, bwog is very polite towards this student in not releasing his name. Bwog could be a lot more of a jackass.

            You, Disturbed TA, are in essence trying to suppress expression. Get with it.

  24. c'mon bwog  

    post the whole essay!!

  25. yea  

    complete essay please!

  26. "bemused recipient"  

    is a professor, yet forwards a letter from a student to Bwog? Seems kind of immature?

  27. I'm tired of this  

    I'm tired of this. If we have to rely on a last resort, I say we vote on whether we should change the Core or not. And I bet the strikers will lose.

  28. Anonymous  

    i have seen this person's penis. and it is small. no wonder he has so much time to ruminate.

  29. CC 09  

    So let's not forget that this is coming from the CC '10 The same class that blatantly cheated on their Lit Hum final. In fact let's do a little recap. In the good old days, before 2010 arrived, (That would be my freshman year), we didn't have the minutemen, we didn't have the hunger strikers, and all was well with the world. Except of course that racist graffiti in Ruggles. Recent reports reveal that it was actually several CC 2010 pre-frosh that perpetrated these hate crimes.

    The take home point here, is that we all need to step out of Plato's cave and realize, as painful as it may be, that CC 2010 is the root cause of all the evil, hate-mongering, and downright immature shit that has happened in the past two years.


    pissed off junior

    • get  

      over yourself junior. not all of cc '10 is a mess. we're not all hunger strikers, we don't give a crap about who did what to mark modesitt and we certainly didn't all cheat. remember the instructor gave the answers, there are other factors. you're prolly jealous that your lit hum final wasn't nullified

      and you're prolly one of the ugly nasty cc '09ers coz your year really lacks good looking, interesting people.

      • lol  

        ...and then you went and lost all credibility.

      • CC 09  

        Thanks for justifying my argument, only someone in your class would take this seriously. How could a group of 1000 diverse people be the root cause of all evil at Columbia? Furthermore, what does "all evil" even mean. Rather than noting the fact that correlation does not always imply relation, like a logical person would have, you attack CC 09. This just furthers the perception of you as immature.

        Why would I have wanted the answers to the Lit Hum final? I read all the books and the final was a breeze, it was pretty unbelievable that so many people couldn't recognize the difference between the C&P epilogue and the rest of the text...

        P.S I'm actually one of the way attractive, incredibly interesting CC 09ers...

  30. Disturbed TA

    And as an addendum, if Bwog is actually some kind of involved conceptual art project/in-joke to nettle the literal-minded (the person claiming that 'Hobbes' should be respected, in contrast to the self-righteous guy being ripped into, himself has the handle 'Hobbes,' one guy's email addy is 'servile,' etc.)...well, call me nettled.

    But I think a lot of people don't get the joke.

  31. Disturbed TA

    Oops. I meant to say that they are compatible, not 'there is a difference' between them. Obviously, they're different.

  32. Disturbed TA

    Look, I'm not going to respond to this, but I have a brain-teaser for everybody.

    If civility ends when someone provokes incivility, is the first act which provokes incivility civil or incivil?

    -Trying to provoke civility

    • Contentious Student  

      Tautological statements are used for their sharpness and incisiveness, not logical consistency. A TA is a TA, after all. Sigh.

      This kid has no respect whatsoever for how scholarship is done. His paper may be scholarly (although there is evidence to doubt this as well), but his chosen method of arguing his case is childish. You never stick your argument in the face of other scholars. Period.

  33. anonymous

    S/he's probably a real PhD student in the Social Sciences.

    Who else would be so confused as to mistake some activist-type's rantings about praxis with "engagement"?

    Ignorant self-righteousness isn't critical thought. Again, if it was my student, it would be "Welcome to your first 'F'".

  34. Contentious Student  

    Just to be a responsible citizen of this community: TA, please don't take your anger out on those papers next week.

    • alum

      Why is everyone suspicious that a real TA would support this psychobabble clap-trap? Columbia has become Indoctrinaire U. My guess is that the student was in the TA's class - and learned how to be a master douchebag under said TA's tutelage...

  35. sigh  

    i should have gone to trade school.

  36. Disturbed TA

    To various people:

    It really doesn't bother me to be insulted by you. At this point, I am really just curious about two things. First, what bothers you so much about activist students? And second, what would convince you that they deserve to be respected?

    So let's just forget arguing for a second and talk:

    For example, let me try to figure out what you, Contentious Student, mean by "there is much civility on this campus, but this civility ends when someone provokes incivility."

    When you said that, did you mean that you're, kind of, being uncivil because you were provoked, and that you're angry at the activists? I want to understand how you see this. What makes you angry at them? I'm honestly curious.

  37. Disturbed TA

    Also, I don't quite get what you mean by 'provokes incivility.' How do people provoke it?

    • Contentious Student  

      Dear TA, no one is against activism. Activism is one of the virtues of society. The problem is the arrogance, pomposity, and self-righteousness of SOME activists. There are humble activists, and then there are arrogant ones. The student who e-mailed his essay to a list of authority figures, thinking his essay is even worthy of being read before he gets his grade back from his instructor, is an example of an arrogant fool. What right does he have to waste the time of an entire department? Why is he so presumptuous? Why is he so in-my-face?

      There are plainly better ways to be activist in this case - ways that do not involve hunger-striking or mass mailing an essay that is questionable in its scholarly qualities.

      You ask, What would convince me to respect activists? I respect activists who are not rash, who do not rush to do foolhardy things. I like activists who engage in scholarly debate, who ASK for an audience rather than forcefully holding one hostage.
      At the end of the day, you must ask yourself why these activists for changing the Core have completely sidestepped the rest of the student population and went directly to the administrators. These pro-hunger strikers did not even challenge the sizable opposition that exists among his peers. This is the meaning of INCIVILITY. He was impolite to his peers, and his peers should reciprocate in like manner.

  38. Disturbed TA

    Finally, what makes you think TA's are indoctrinating people? It's kind of strange for me to hear about. Of course, many people who teach here do have politics that they want to see represented in class, but they really don't want to force them on people: they want critical thinking more than anything else. Or maybe we disagree on what critical thinking is? I dunno.

  39. Disturbed TA

    Hmm. Now, would it have been different if he had emailed it to his whole section, and not to the deans?
    (What you said implied it's bad because it wastes the time of people like Yatrakis, but you also asked 'why is he so in-my-face?'

    You also said you like 'activists who engage in scholarly debate.' What's your opinion about people like Edward Said?

    You asked why this 'activist' 'went directly to the administrators.' To answer your question, I don't think the guy is necessarily representative of every activist on campus as a whole, but I guess HE probably did what he did the way he did because those are the people with the power to change the core curriculum.

    You also said that people should be impolite to people who are impolite to them-isn't there also the philosophy of 'turn the other cheek'?

    • Contentious Student  

      "Would it have been different if he had e-mailed it to his whole section, and not to the deans?" I, personally, think that it would've been better for him to wait it out, GET A GRADE first, see what his instructor has to say about his writing/arguments, consult his instructor about the move, THEN do something. For all we know, this paper could be a C- paper filled with crappy premises and faulty argumentation. He has no academic credentials, no established reputation - what gives him the right to waste the time of administrators? How can this student be so sure of himself? He cannot.

      My opinion of Said is irrelevant. You cannot compare this upstart with Said. Said at least had a PhD. At least.

      If he "did what he did the way he did" it knowing he was not representing the majority of Columbia students, then he would be SELFISH. On top of being arrogant, that is.

      "Turn the other cheek" does not apply to debate, much less scholarly debate or like the discussion we are having now. In debate, there is only the light of reason. There is no "turn the other cheek." You are taking "turn the other cheek" totally out of context.

  40. disturbed TA

    I'm a little confused. You said he should get a grade on his ideas before submitting them to the administration, but you also said he should 'represent the majority of Columbia students.' I can certainly see the point of view that he should have talked to his instructor about this before sending it off. But couldn't you say he was just expressing his opinion?

    Also, do you think that, in general, activists should seek the consent of a majority of their fellow students before making public statements? What would you say about the core if one asked you about it?

    Also, you said:

    "Turn the other cheek" does not apply to debate, much less scholarly debate or like the discussion we are having now. In debate, there is only the light of reason. There is no "turn the other cheek." You are taking "turn the other cheek" totally out of context.

    But I mentioned "turn the other cheek" because I wanted to know what you thought about civility and things like that at Columbia, not so much the rules of debate.

    • Contentious Student  

      "But couldn't you say he was just expressing his opinion?" Clearly, "just expressing" an opinion is not good enough of a reason to e-mail a whole department of people. A more compelling reason must be given. After all, everyone is entitled to give his opinion, but in only in the proper forum, in the proper manner, with the proper audience. This student had no forum with the administration (much less the entire list of instructors and representatives, who were not even aware of his existence), and he had no right to intrude so self-righteously to set one up.

      My opinion of the Core is irrelevant. Notice I am not attacking/defending any view regarding the Core. I am only criticizing this particular student's METHOD of expressing his opinion. It's a terribly disrespectful method.
      "Do you think..activists should seek the consent of a majority..before making public statements?" The answer to this depends. In this case, the student had a number of options other than the one he chose. For example, he could've contacted CC students who sit on the Committee of the Core; Facebook (remember the anti-strike group vis-a-vis the pro-strike group?); petitioning, etc.

      What do I think of civility at Columbia? Well, I think I made this clear. There is civility everywhere if you speak respectfully. Campus has how many student-run publications? How many rags? How many columns? Seriously.

  41. Disturbed TA

    Right, right, I get that you think he should have done it in the regular manner. That makes sense, of course.

    What I don't quite get is why you say it's 'disrespectful.' How so?

  42. Contentious Student  

    It's disrespectful because he was rude, arrogant, self-righteous, presumptuous, and(from his essay, quoted by bwog):
    "I hope that you will take the short amount of time necessary to read the document (and perhaps a little longer to consider the way it could affect your own reality)."
    ... trying to tell TAs, instructors, professors, noted scholars, what to think and consider their "own reality." Wow, that's a load to drop by a kid.

  43. Disturbed TA

    Right, right, right. But look, I'm a Grad student and possibly an authority figure, and I can tell you that spontaneous expressions of opinion about the Core are not exactly the kind of thing about this school that annoys me.

    In fact, I'm sitting here at 1:30am in the morning trying to draw out your opinions on the kind of thing this kid was talking about.

    Let me put it this way. Why do you think it matters that this kid was being disrespectful?

  44. contentious student  

    You tire me. I think you're just playing around. This ends here.

  45. disturbed TA

    Well, I'm sorry for bothering you-it actually is enlightening and helpful to hear your opinion.

  46. Concerned TA  

    I fear that "Disturbed TA" will give us other TAs a bad name. We are normal people, I swear!

    Thank you.

  47. awesome

    Disturbed TA: rock on, please. As a student it's disturbing to see the amount of anti-intellectuality here.

    For everyone else: If you didn't want to be at a place where people *gasp* think academically, why did you all go to Columbia? Please, consider dropping out, and leave the nice financial aid packages to us.

    Concerned TA: Sorry, stop faking. You're not a TA.

    • alum

      a corollary to consider #79...

      If you didn't want to be at a school offering a historical core curriculum featuring the western canon of political thought... please, consider dropping out and leave Columbia for those who appreciate it.

    • anonymous ta

      Most of these activist types at Columbia aren't intellectuals - at their best, they try to fake it.

      It's not an intellectual response when, because you are pissed off that Hobbes was "an old dead white guy" (and you've been told by your activist friends that this is somehow racist), you turn to some random scholar (e.g. Paulo Freire) who you discovered via Wikipedia when one of your activist friends mentioned that he was some sort of a socialist.

      I would love to hear one of these nutjob 'activists' explain why the core should be changed,

      1) in a way that actually addresses the reasons we have the core we do,
      2) without the constant, empty references to 'racism' and 'oppression', and
      3) in their own words, in intelligible English, without invoking vague jargon from every 'post-colonial thinker' they know to cite.

      These people are the most dogmatic I know. No one in my classes reads Hobbes, etc., thinking that they have to - or should - agree with any of it.

      But when it's some 'post-colonial' type, they're happy to drop quotes without analysis as if it's the word of God himself falling out of the sky.

      • awesome  

        anonymous ta: Do you know for sure that this was the case? Or are you just guessing? I'm curious.

        I dislike empty questions in classes that take up my time to engage with the professor. But this hasn't; activism generally doesn't. I'd rather have a school speaking out that has intellectuals, than have a campus full of people who think such intellectualty is 'douchebaggery' and 'fucktard'ery.

        This is, I think, the same reaction to that person who got a perfect score on their psets and finals, or an A+ on a essay/paper: a defense mechanism against a feeling of self-inferiority. I sure as hell don't get perfect scores or A+es on my papers, but I don't feel _angry_. Obviously, a bunch of people do.

        • anonymous ta

          I don't know who you think claimed that intellectuality is 'douchebaggery' - unless you're trying to conflate obnoxious activism with intellectualism.

          I also don't know what people have negative reactions when they hear that someone got a perfect score or an A+ - I did most of the time as an undergraduate and received nothing but positive reactions.

          This isn't a state school.. I just can't imagine what this charge of anti-intellectualism could be based on.

  48. Statistics TA  

    Gee, it sure must be exhausting getting all riled up and into the Socratic method about Bwog comments.

    I just grade papers. Often I ask my class if they have any questions, but they're usually fine with the textbook and the lecture.

    • anonymous ta

      You wait until someone turns in a final that reads

      "I cannot in good conscience attempt to solve these 'problems' because you have not included alternative viewpoints such as that of Anti-Racist Mathematics in the course."

  49. conundrum  

    Some people apparently have a LOT of time on their hands, and they choose to use it in the strangest ways. What a conundrum!

  50. wow

    I never knew so many TAs read Bwog!

    • To be fair  

      TAs are students, and students read bwog.

      In response to the charge of anti-intellectualism on campus: Anti-intellectualism is avoiding debate, being childish, holding hunger strikes, sending an ungraded essay to a list of authorities, when you could in fact do more productive and scholarly things. Intellectualism is engaging in debate properly. The recent activist events have been very anti-intellectual.

  51. boring

    you tas and students sure are boring. go have a beer. i'm sick of your crap.

  52. anti-

    It is, no doubt, quite anti-intellectual to shudder at the prospect of encountering views with which you disagree, and to suggest that nobody should question consensus.

    • anonymous ta

      "It is, no doubt, quite anti-intellectual to shudder at the prospect of encountering views with which you disagree"

      Ah, so we agree that this sophomore should stop being afraid to learn a core curriculum that might not be the one s/he would him/herself design. Excellent.

  53. pomposity

    Anyway, the discussion above (between the TAs and the "contentious student") seems to have nearly rivaled the remarks of the offending student in pomposity. That certainly is a quality that people here never seem to get enough of.

  54. awesome  

    Okay, this discussion so far:

    Student has ideas about the school, decides they are important and sends them to people who have the power to enable these ideas. This is:

    being a douchebag #2, #3
    toolish #8
    naive #25
    anti-intellectualism #81
    et cetera.

    Aw, geez. Who are you people?

  55. Uhhh no  

    He doesn't only "sends" them. That's QUITE an understatement. It's like he's dictating to the administrators what to do:
    "I think you will find that it embodies the essence of the Core Curriculum, especially CC, and is an example of what I consider to be the true power of the Core..."
    lol his punk-ass essay embodying the essence of the Core.

    "The syllabus need not be discarded immediately, it is comprised of wonderful books, ..."
    "need not be discarded immediately" What is he talking to his students?

    "I hope that you will take the short amount of time necessary to read the document (and perhaps a little longer to consider the way it could affect your own reality)."

    Bow down to CC'10.

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.