Notes and References
I keep everything. Okay, not literally everything, but a lot of stuff. I still have all my readers from previous classes on my iPad, I still have my notes from previous classes on my computer. And I still use them.
I will admit to not taking notes in all of my classes. But the notes I do take are because I think they’re actually useful. And this semester, more than any semester previously, I’m actually using those notes. Not to study for the upcoming exam, but to make connections. A few weeks ago, when we had to pick our paper topics for my econ class, I decided to write about the differences between the 1997 and 2008 economic collapses in East Asia. I knew it would be interesting, but I didn’t really know where to go to start researching. So I sent my dad an email, asking him to dig through my box of stuff from Tufts. To find one specific notebook from one specific class. To look at a handful of lectures that I knew touched on the 1997 crisis or its aftermath. I knew which lectures he should look at because I still have the syllabus from that class on my computer. And now, with those notes, I know what to research.
Today, I started working on a paper about media, borders, and nationalism. I knew I needed to start with some definitions: nations vs states vs nation-states, etc. I could give those definitions myself no problem, because of my political science classes, but definitions are always better with a legitimate source. So I went to my recitation notes, found the reading in which we defined them, went to the reader, found my quotes.
I find it interesting that so many people rely so much on the internet these days for sources like this. I’m not denying the fact that I use the internet. Most of my sources for all these papers are from the internet. Part of that is because its way easier to find sources in English on the online journals that Tufts has access to than to search the Czech libraries for relevant texts in English. Part of it is because I’m lazy. But for the first time in my life, a lot of my sources are from previous courses.
My first instinct would be to say that this is because I’m taking classes now that are similar to previous classes I’ve taken. Because I’m finding a focus in my coursework that is letting me become more specialized. But I don’t think that’s really true.
My econ sources came from a political science class about Japan, and I’m using them for a course about Macroeconomics and the 2008 crisis. My media and borders source is for a class all about propaganda – a class I took because I found a previous class about propaganda in Nazi Germany interesting. But the source is from my Intro to Comparative Politics course last spring.
I think it is more realistic to say that my liberal arts education is working. A lot of people are asking in this day and age of ever-increasing college tuitions what college is really good for. I heard a podcast just the other day in which a college professor admitted that 95% of his students don’t remember anything (literally nothing, he said) from his class. But college clearly teaches us something – I think it teaches us how to make connections. Or at least, that is what I think college is teaching me. It is teaching me to take note of what is important. And, perhaps even more significantly, college is teaching me to take note of how to access what is important. It is teaching me to make the connections between media studies and political science, between political science and economics; to understand the differences in analysis methodology between political science, economics, chemistry, and physics. It is teaching me to ask the right questions in order to get the right answers. And it is teaching me to never, ever, ever throw anything away.