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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Canceled, when the clock is ticking

Published: November 16, 2012
Section: Opinions

It might have already been mentioned in this column that yours truly is a senior. About five times now, actually. Together we have explored such things as campus leadership and the joy that is the LSAT. But this week, the class I had most been looking forward to next semester, my final semester, was canceled.

Politics 154 was to be a seminar on citizenship—what it means, both its rights and its obligations. I do not know why it was canceled (if a class on citizenship, in comparative perspective no less, failed to achieve enough demand at Brandeis, well, shame on all of us and our supposed “social justice”), but at the very least, it could force me to put my money where my mouth is in terms of the weekly decrees in this space.

Now, my schedule next semester is wide open. I have completed two majors and a minor, probably another one of those if I bother to check, and I met all of my general requirements, some long ago. The citizenship seminar was to be a three-hour capstone to my social-science-heavy career, bringing in American studies and politics in general with a dash of the law, sociology and statistics once a week. And now my schedule has more holes than confirmed timeslots.

With the one class I have to take, I still have three or four possibilities. If you have been keeping count, you will see that even with “Citizenship” I had been having problems; that was probably the reason behind my piece last week, which celebrated taking classes outside one’s comfort zone. The registrar, it seems, wants me to try a taste of my own medicine.

This has never happened to me before, this scrambling to find interesting classes. Brandeis is a fantastic place, I’m the first to admit it, and I’ve actually never had a class I disliked. But each other term I’ve narrowed down four or five classes from six or seven. Now I have one for sure. But part of this is my fault. Even Citizenship would, as described above, have been a compilation of my studies up until this point. The math class I am taking this semester that I described last week? It’s as close to a politics class anything with actual “proof” in it can be. So, what I should do now is contained in my own writings: branch out, take something new. Don’t just keep pouring over Americanist or political junkie courses.

I have a snappy retort to this written version of myself, that I’m not taking those classes anyway because I want free Fridays to follow Hoot duties. But that just makes it worse.
I think I have found a history course to go with my base of one, so I may be up to two as of press time. But that’s not exactly out of my box.

But you are reading this for you, not to view my increasingly narrow interests. I probably will find another politics or history class to replace Citizenship. I do have a penchant though for taking those “special one-time” offerings, and my first recommendation is to take them, as many as you can.

And my second, broader point toward which I’ve been winding up is not to waste your time here. If you want to become absolutely expert on American legal norms and political discourse, that is fine. Specifying is grand in the sciences or arts, as well, where it may actually even help you in your quixotic quest to get a Ph.D., for some reason. Or if you don’t yet know what you want to do, look for classes that sound interesting even if you have to wake-up early on Fridays. Pass-fails exist for a reason and just because you can now use one toward a requirement does not mean you should. Or it means you can take a requirement, like a politics course that is math, that you will soon realize you never should have taken pass-fail.

If I do find another me-course to substitute for Citizenship, I’ll still have room for another class. I hope that class stands up to the doubtless sterling credit I’ve built for myself lecturing to the whole community about the role of our Brandeis education. I doubt it. But I really have no excuse. The LSAT is history and my applications for schools and the Fulbright will both be long-done in January. What I’m really feeling when I stare at my empty sage schedule is not loss for another class on citizenship or stress looking for another to fill it. I look at my schedule next semester and I see my own Brandeis-mortality.