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Finding Civility Through Scale and Perspective

Civility through Scale and Perspective

Students in HONRS 290R this semester are learning that size and subjectivity inform our understanding of most everything—from physics to painting, geography to narrative, and climate to the 10 Commandments. We asked one of our Honors student ambassadors, Amberlee Woodhouse, to tell us a little about this Unexpected Connections course taught by Professors Matt Bekker from Geography and Dean Duncan from Theater & Media Arts.

At the beginning of the semester, we thought each professor would take their own half of the class to give a lecture, but most classes, it ends up being more about collaborative learning. The professors add things to each other’s lesson from the perspective of their discipline and play off of students’ questions and comments. Professor Duncan compared their style of team teaching to jazz performance, saying, “I am anxious to stay out of Professor Bekker’s way when he is the soloist, but sometimes it’s helpful to throw in my own part, whether it’s complementary or contrasting.” Watching Duncan and Bekker play off of each other has taught students that so called “right brained” and “left brained” people have a lot to learn from each other, and can work together in a uniquely complementary way. It’s a pleasure for students to learn from people striving to find, as Duncan put it, the “civility between people of different mindsets.”

Learning this way has proved both interesting and beneficial as a student. For example, we’ve learned from Professor Bekker how to use scale and perspective to see our physical world differently. Zooming in and out of different areas allows you to see systems you would not from any other point of view, like the difference between studying an entire rainforest versus zooming in and studying one tree and the life surrounding it. We then take those terms and apply them to the readings we do for the arts portion of the class. For example, how does using temporal scale influence our perspective on a certain character in a story? Or, how does lack of perspective hinder a protagonists’ progress?

For one assignment, we were each asked to sit somewhere in nature and use scale and perspective to write about what we saw. When I asked Gigi Valentine, a fellow student in the class, about her experience with the class so far, she said, “It makes me think differently in the rest of my classes.” Perhaps that is the best part of this course; it teaches us how to think in a way that we didn’t before, which will benefit our lives beyond college.