Staff Writer Grace Novarr, a Barnard freshman, explains the different classes in the Columbia Core.

I may currently be a proud Barnard first-year, but once upon a time, I was just a prospie with a dilemma: which undergrad college of Columbia University should I apply Early Decision to? Ultimately I chose the one with the shorter applicatio- I mean, the one whose mission more closely aligned with my values. Being at Barnard means that I will never get the chance to take the Core, but the Core has continued to fascinate me, especially now that it has become unattainable. Based on my observations on the way CC students act and talk about their classes, these are the impressions that I have formed about the Core Curriculum. 

Contemporary Civilization

A.k.a. Contemporary Eurocentrism. This is the class that everyone hates unless they’re a pretentious philosophy major, in which case they are the reason that everyone hates being in the class. The curriculum includes Nietzche and Kant, famously depressed invalids – which is what all of the students who take CC feel like. There are a few token women on the syllabus, but – much like Columbia College before 1986 – the roster is almost entirely male. On the plus side, after taking this class, you’ll be able to finally understand the lyrics to Vampire Weekend’s first album. And hey, maybe someone on the subway will be impressed that you’re reading Foucault.

Assignments include: converting to Christianity, playing devil’s advocate, breaking your spine by carrying all those books around.

Literature Humanities

The source of 45% of SparkNotes’ site traffic. Maybe you’ll try to actually read the Iliad, but by the time the Aeneid rolls around you’ll be paying the one kid in the class who’s already read all the texts as part of his private boarding school education to give you the talking points you’ll need to earn participation credit. The curriculum has Austen, Woolf, Sappho, and Morrison, who, as we all know, are the only female writers to ever exist. This is the class that you deluded yourself into thinking you were excited about taking when you wrote your CommonApp.

Assignments include: transcribing the entirety of the Iliad, moving to Greece, captioning an Instagram photo with a Sappho fragment.

University Writing

This is the class where you learn how to write. If you thought you already knew how to write, you were dead wrong. Your CommonApp essay looks like a drunken Notes app entry compared to the masterpieces you’ll produce in this class. These essays will be so good that 200 years from now, some poor freshman will be forced to analyze it through three different theoretical lenses. Your TA will be an insecure grad student who will refuse to give you above a B, and you’ll spend more energy on your emails to them begging for a regrade than on the actual essays.

Assignments include: dropping out of Columbia like Timothee Chalamet and transferring to NYU, re-writing PresBo’s emails to publish on Columbia Confessions, tweeting about how much you hate your TA.

Art Humanities 

Female artists? Never heard of them. If you wanted to learn about culturally significant women you should have gone to Barnard. This is the class where people learn for the first time about paintings that aren’t the Mona Lisa and Starry Night. You might take a field trip to a museum that’s not the Met, and then for the rest of your life you’ll tell people that that museum is actually better than the Met. This class is basically A.P. Art History but without the units on Asian and African art. 

Assignments include: building the Parthenon out of popsicle sticks, watching the APESHIT music video, staying overnight at the Met like they do in that one E.L. Konigsburg book.

Music Humanities

This is the class where your classmates who were part of middle school band will act as if they have the same knowledge level as Yo-Yo Ma. You probably still won’t be able to tell the difference between Bach, Beethoven, and Berlioz. Someone in this class will casually mention that their families regularly donate billions to the Metropolitan Opera. The burgeoning SoundCloud artist will not attend any class sessions. One of your classmates will have performed at Carnegie Hall as an eight-year old. 

Assignments include: dropping a mixtape, passionately arguing that Kanye is more influential to Western music than Mozart, doing Tik Tok dances.

Frontiers of Science

You will realize that you forgot all the steps to the Scientific Method. You will realize that you are not actually interested in becoming a biochemist. You will be thankful that you are not in SEAS. This will either be your favorite Core class or your least favorite Core class. Astrophysics is nowhere near as interesting as you thought it would be. If you do well on the neuroscience unit, you’ll consider switching your major. You will then take an actual neuroscience class and immediately switch it back.

Assignments include: not confessing to cheating on your final exams, dissecting an owl pellet, performing brain surgery.

Butler Via Bwog Archives