Challenging courses in high school were existential threats to getting into college, or at least I saw them in that regard. Some of my instructors were not as myopic and taught me how to savor learning as a process and simultaneously gain new knowledge. Social Utopias has been a challenging course in many respects. It is replete with different learning processes, all of which delineate around realizing social utopias. Reading and writing in the course have largely constituted how ideas pertinent to this goal are achieved. Professor Watts has made me cognizant of times when I misunderstood readings or communicated incorrect ideas in my writing. Attending her office hours helped me learn how to possibly avoid these errors in the future. On the one hand, these mistakes were reflected in my grade accordingly. On the other hand, the resolve I took to understand and correct my failures holistically developed my academic skill set. Indeed, avoiding similar mistakes required me to assess and communicate ideas more carefully in reading, writing and in class discussion. In reviewing my work, I am confident that such critical thinking about the different learning processes in the course has allowed me to realize nuances and understand social utopias more effectively.
All of my experience with the concept of a utopia stems from dystopian literature. I had learned prior that utopia meant dystopia, the concepts were not separate. The first response paper, therefore, was a big wake-up call. I answered the question I wanted to, not the one asked. It is ironic then, how the very next class we were asked to design and answer our own study questions. This assignment made me evaluate the intent of questions more carefully, especially when I penned the next response paper. Class discussion was sometimes nonexistent. There were many times I wanted to share ideas with others, but because I had already contributed multiple times it seemed inappropriate to do so. How unfortunate that is because there were numerous occasions when my peers could have corrected a misunderstanding of mine before the professor did in a graded setting. By contrast, the informal discussions happening outside of class with my study group largely consisted of making sure everyone was on the same page. I have often struggled to communicate my thoughts with clarity, because complex concepts are tough to describe. Style: Clarity & Grace advised me to stop using the passive voice in this regard; They Say, I Say offered brilliant templates for communicating summaries and arguments. It is no coincidence that Professor Watts acknowledged the ideas I put forth in the next response paper: I wrote the paper with both books open next to my laptop. The midterm essay was essentially a culmination of what we had learnt thus far. I curated my notes, the index in Republic, and both writing books when preparing my first draft outline. After Yasmine peer reviewed my draft, my clarity improved but I felt compelled to go back to the drawing board. Namely, I made a checklist for the essay question. The effort I put in to expressing my argument with sound information and clarity paid off. Unfortunately, my argument contained presuppositions which I did not properly acknowledge. I definitely need to stay true to the text and the author’s intent when communicating ideas in the next part of the course.
The trip to Twin Oaks and CHAT helped me conceptualize what behavior exists in social utopias. Twin Oaks consisted of largely communal behavior and cooperation was the rule not the exception. There are also places where behavior is not as communal and cooperation is the exception. I noticed how CHAT brought the community together through cooperative efforts. Both field trips reinforced the dichotomy which Bradshaw discussed in the journal article we read: is utopia an ideal or an idyllic? I realized how CHAT seeks to create a better place, while Twin Oaks was created to be a better place. I think this piece of reflection is most profound, because it is the sum of all the learning processes I have been able to enjoy in the course so far.