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Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Freshman Reading List is Kinda Stupid (Post UPDATED- See Bottom)
Every year the school releases an
unofficial UC Berkeley Summer Reading List for incoming freshmen. This year's list, on the theme of "Great Discoveries, Voyages and Adventures," isn't required reading, but simply provides recommendations for a good read.As a tradition, Kevin! used to mock the list every year, so I figured I would say something about the new one.
First of all, I think most freshman don't know about it, and of those that do, most don't read anything off of it. Those who do read some books from the list were probably going to be reading during their summer before Berkeley anyway, and I don't think there is any benefit to reading the freshman reading list books as opposed to them picking out books at the library that interest them.
So my general opinion is that the reading list is somewhere between extremely and completely pointless, but I have a proposed solution. I think the school should propose a summer film list. [All movie links to IMDB.] I had at least five movies used in classes just this semester: Night and Fog, which was a documentary on the Holocaust, Roger and Me, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down, Gettysburg, and The Fog of War). I ended up writing essays about Roger and Me (analyzing it using a Marxist framework) and Blade Runner (comparing the movie to the writings of Foucault). Clearly, professors see an academic benefit to incorporating films into their teaching.
Having a summer film list has two clear benefits. First, it introduces students to the idea that films are a useful way to learn, which helps change the mindset that books are for learning and movies are for fun. You can come up with any theme, and there are pop culture films and serious artistic and critical films, not to mention documentaries, that could shed a ton of light on that topic. And then students would be more apt to consider future movies in terms of what they can learn from them.
Secondly, there is actually a chance that this could create some shared intellectual experience, which the reading list clearly fails to achieve. Freshman in the dorms would be much more likely to discuss the lessons that they picked up from Farenheit 9/11 and The Battle of Algiers (as an example) than to discuss books off the reading list. The ASUC could have some Screen on the Green events where they show some of the films from the list on Memorial Glade (as opposed to Ferris Bueler's Day Off or whatever it was this year).
Granted, the school would probably never do this. They would be too worried about the backlash of cheap and easy newspaper articles about how Berkeley has embraced anti-intellectualism, choosing movies over books (which is just critics proving that they don't understand the intellectual benefits to be gained from critical viewings of different movies on the same topic). But I think at the very least, they should propose a companion movie list to go with the book list. [There are a million movies that you could pair with this year's theme.] Since I'll be e-mailing the dude in charge of the book list about this as a possibility for next year, any constructive comments about the idea are welcome.
*Update* We are going to come up with a CalStuff Complimentary Summer Film List to go along with the summer reading list. That way when I talk to the people in charge of the summer reading list about integrating movies next year, we can show them our list from this year, and also, I can talk to my buddies over at NewsCenter and try to get them to link to the CalStuff film list. Anyone with any suggestions for movies that would fit the theme, "Great Discoveries, Voyages and Adventures", please leave them in comments. Thanks.Email This Post!
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