Why isn't drawing a Core course?

Our Core education is supposed to be about communication. That’s why we read so many texts in common. It’s an attempt to get us all to speak a same, shared, very high-level political/scientific/literary/philosophical/existential language that allows us to discourse, thereby furthering the cause of the ascent of human reason and yada yada yada.

Why isn’t drawing a Core course? Why isn’t there a Core course in the most basic form of human communication? Our language requirement equips us to converse in one or a few countries where we might one day be stranded, while a basic functional education in drawing equips us to be universally communicative. Where words fail, visual communication holds up the bridge: Men’s Room, Women’s Room, EXIT. Visual language is the most widely shared language in the world. More than that, the development of an intuitive internal sense of how to articulate space, depth, and light using only the wrist flexes the conceptual mind and internal eye in a totally novel way. In short, it makes you smarter.

Seized with yet another impending-graduation panic attack over winter break, I signed up on a whim for Basic Drawing. It’s not like I couldn’t use the credits. As it turns out, the class is fascinating. By design, it’s meant to be even more rudimentary than Drawing I. We don’t sit for an hour at a time carefully shading each texture and tone of a model’s behind. Instead we are in constant motion, scratching out raw and primal articulations of spaces and contours in front of us on sweeping three-by-four foot sheets of newsprint paper, using only the most elemental of visually articulate marks like contours, dots, and dashes. We almost always only use simple vine charcoal and seldom devote more than five or 10 minutes to a single drawing. It’s almost like we’re running drills.

In fact, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We are kept constantly moving around the classroom, engendering frequent jolts of fresh perspective, each one demanding a totally novel challenge for our wrists to conceptually convey what our eyes see. We are generally not permitted to sit. The class can even start to wear on the back by the end of the two-and-a-half hour block.

But, slowly, we are brewing an intuitive sense for how to speak visually. Curves to convey depth, tone to convey shade, a sixth-sense knack for making our wrists meaningfully articulate what our eyes see independently. It’s a, strange kind of hand-eye coordination that can be a little spooky, when it first kicks in. It’s this almost eerie out-of-body feeling as we start to feel our hands move with something like second nature, while our eyes rove freely and drink in the visual information in front of us, taking it back out through our wrists. It feels incredibly empowering.

I’ll admit, some shred of the appeal on which I signed up for the class was a vague premonition of being able to pull a Jack Dawson somewhere down the road. That is not what we learn in this class. Our drawings are raw, basic, and incredibly spare. Efficiency and bluntness, not delicacy of communication, is what we seek.

One of my regrets in my time here is that I didn’t take an anthropology class (another candidate for Core inclusion, if you ask me). For all my ignorance, though, I’m pretty sure people were scratching out pictures on cave walls with nothing but charcoal from the last night’s fire before or around the development of spoken language. It’s as much a part of our DNA as verbal language is, talking and listening with our eyes as well as our voices. But, visual arts majors excepted, most Columbia students will graduate without ever even having flexed this muscle. I think that’s sad. Renaissance painters knew how important the muscle was—Da Vinci doodled obsessively. A Core designed to turn us into some shred of that kind of well-rounded student should have the sense to make us do so, too.

The author is a Columbia College senior concentrating in mathematics.

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Anonymous posted on

But, doesn't ArtHum accomplish some of what you're suggesting a drawing class would? I didn't draw in my ArtHum class, but a ton of friends in various sections did have to. That class is about speaking visually, not just looking at paintings for an hour and a half. You're suggesting that its the physical act of drawing that would make this a good Core class. But then the case could be made that acting or dance or creative writing or music performance should be part of the core. Most students at this school have never taken an acting course (which in my opinion exercises far more mental, emotional and physical muscles as well as improving overall public speaking ability and personal awareness in social situations) or a dance class (if you're talking about physical expression of art, hello--dance) or any other sort of performing arts class but those could achieve what you're discussing just as or perhaps more than a rudimentary drawing class. If you're serious about this idea, why not make it an "arts" requirement—one semester of some sort of visual or performing art. Yet a big problem with that is that these visual and performing arts classes are capped and are hard enough for visual/performing arts majors to get into (I have a friend who is a visual arts major who never gets into his first choice art classes because they fill up and are capped at 10 or 12). How many students here are visual art majors? Far fewer than are anthropology or any other department you think should "get" a core class. Therefore, the added stress on a smaller department for professors who can teach drawing, sections for the CC/GS taking the course, and spaces to teach those courses in (which is already a huge problem on campus). Expanding it to arts in general wouldn't fix the problem but it would help relieve pressure from one department and would avoid large scheduling disasters (think about how LitHum is not just an "english" class, with professors from every field from PoliSci to Classics teaching sections).

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aggus posted on

Because cheating took its place.

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Anonymous posted on

You keep posting the same comment on multiple articles. I think you have us confused with Harvard that was once again in the news again for a cheating scandal. You rely don't hear about much cheating going on here.

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aggus posted on

I do hear about it. If you do not, you and I have not been listening from the same sources. If you do not believe what I write and dismiss them, you have gained nothing. But if you think that there is a grain of truth, and if you look and listen harder, who knows, you may find some startlingly shitty things. Harvard is not the same as Columbia, except in this important respect.

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CU_Alum posted on

If there are sources you can point us to, then please do.

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aggus posted on

1. Read the papers. The New York Post and Ivygate on that Kazakh kid tell you plenty. You just need to realize that it was not an isolated incident, just as none of the incidents at Harvard was isolated. 2. Would you mind identifying yourselves and give your email addresses and/or phone numbers? We will see how we can contact you with info.

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CU_Alum posted on

"That Kazakh kid" was an applicant who allegedly lied *to* Columbia. Even if the allegations are true, they do not suggest a pattern of lying *by* Columbia.

And yes, I would mind identifying myself for you. I'm as entitled to my anonymity as you are to yours. Besides, having made your accusations publicly, you should support them publicly too.

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aggus posted on

Columbia College admissions ignores lies that scream at them. My interpretation is that they are complicit, especially when there are too many such cases. They did not lift a finger to verify the easily verifiable. That should tell you that they are either stupid or bad. Whether you are a current student, an alum, a parent, or a university leader, you can learn more by starting to discern the admissions office and the university development office. The people who are specifically assigned to cover Kasakhstan would be as good a start as any, and that would lead you to other countries. Of course they will tell you that confidentiality prevents them from giving details to you. But they have details from which they can learn plenty, and they refuse to learn from them. Exactly the same as Harvard. Regardless of what Harvard says, Harvard still has learned nothing from the Adam Wheeler case.

I have worse to tell you. As a matter of fact Columbia is slightly worse than Harvard in these respects, which means that Columbia is very bad. I understand that this pops the balloon about your college, but I hope that it motivates you to dig further. There are a lot there that will not go away any time soon. You really would want to start digging.

That is all I can give without being in direct contact. This is meant to be helpful, and thanks for drilling into me in the first place.

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Anonymous posted on

It's pretty absurd to suggest that Admissions is "complicit" in these cheating cases, which are pretty few and far between. Also, I'm pretty sure (though not positive) that the Kazakh kid was a GS student anyway, not CC/SEAS.

Honestly, if there were any more examples of Admissions being duped or large-scale cheating, I might be inclined to believe you, but you can't just say "Columbia is slightly worse than Harvard" when it comes to cheating and expect people to buy your argument.

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aggus posted on

I agree. It is absurd. Suit yourself about any of this. I am not arguing anything. It is the truth.

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CU_Alum posted on

Even if it is the truth, you've given us no reason to believe it. That *you* believe it does not mean your belief is correct.

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aggus posted on

Like I said, suit yourself.

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UnionLeague posted on

Visual expression and visual communication doesn't get much respect at Columbia, although they teach Art Hum and I suppose that's a start. Columbia is all about the written word - linear abstract process and abstract symbology as in science and math. Artistic depictions and architectural compositions are viewed as a bit trade-like and a bit embarrassing, like a poor relation. Oh well, it'll take take time but things will change, even if at a glacial pace.

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Dena Lester posted on

As a beginner, it's difficult to draw anything in drawing, you have to get knowledge about complete art supplies which are used in drawing. Nowadays, there are various art institutes run core drawing courses to teach them fundamentals of drawing.

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Dena Lester posted on

As a beginner, it's difficult to draw anything in drawing, you have to get knowledge about complete art supplies which are used in drawing. Nowadays, there are various art institutes run core drawing courses to teach them fundamentals of drawing.

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