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retaking classes

I was listening to my chorus' concert CD yesterday and was pleased. I
think we have matured as a group over the past few years. There's
still lots of room for improvement, but we have made progress. My
duet with Nancy came out fine; despite the fact we weren't near any
mics we could still be heard pretty well. BIG UPS to Allen Podell for
his digital editing on the CD cover. He has now raised the bar on our

On to the subject of this entry ... it is fairly common for people who
take dance lessons to repeat the classes several times. This is
encouraged by the dance instructors, who say that trying to progress
through the program isn't a good idea because you don't learn
everything you need to know. I think this is true in some cases. For
example, I took one of the east coast swing classes four times, but
after the last time I was really good. However, after the first time,
I couldn't remember everything that was taught and also didn't have
very good technique. I know some people who have tried to go through
the classes quickly and have actually passed their medal testing, but
it's difficult to dance with them because their technique is poor.

On the other hand, when I was an undergrad at MIT, among some people I
knew, there was a huge stigma about repeating classes. I suppose this
was (is) partially justifiable because of the high cost of tuition,
but I wonder sometimes if it wouldn't have been a bad idea to repeat
some things. For example, I remember at the end of 18.02
(vector and multivariable calculus), I thought I failed the
last exam. If you failed one of the calculus exams you could (can)
retake something called a "tutored exam" offered by TAs in
the math department. They'd give you an exam that you had about 45
minutes (or so) to complete, and afterwards they'd grade it and go
over the results with you. The tutored exams were often more
difficult than the in-class exams. So I took a tutored exam for the
last unit and failed (by a few points). I was going to study some
more, then I found out that I passed the in-class exam (by a sizable
margin). So taking the tutored exam helped me find weaknesses that I
wasn't aware of previously.

Since it's been many years since I've taken calculus, I don't remember
very much; I certainly couldn't do much of 18.02 if my life depended
on it. So if I were to do something like go back to school to study
something that required calculus I would have to retake some of it (or
at least review a lot of it). The idea doesn't exactly thrill me,
although there's no reason why it should bother me -- it's not as if I
detested the subject. Also, realistically, I would (and will) retake
some dance classes for similar reasons. But it bothers me a bit that
the stigma of retaking math or cs classes remains after all these


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2004 09:09 pm (UTC)
I find myself wondering whether there is a difference in absorption rates between intellectual subjects and physical ones. Not that I think there should be a stigma about retaking academic classes, of course, but perhaps it's just normal for your body to need a year or two of elapsed time to really learn certain dance steps, and this makes repeating the class routine.

Since it's been many years since I've taken calculus, I don't remember
very much; I certainly couldn't do much of 18.02 if my life depended
on it.

This is probably true of most of the subjects I took in college. This is why they have refresher courses, particularly for people who want to go back to school after some time away.
Jan. 4th, 2004 03:40 pm (UTC)
"I find myself wondering whether there is a difference in
absorption rates between intellectual subjects and physical

I don't know of any studies offhand. What I have noticed in some
dancers is that even if they have learned the patterns, they haven't
learned proper frame, shaping, contra body motion, etc. This makes
most dances very difficult above a basic level because the proper
execution of the patterns is highly dependent on technique. I
actually think the instructors would be better off presenting less
material and going into more detail about technique per class, rather
than presenting lots of patterns and expecting (or hoping) the
students will retake classes. (There is an assumption among some
teachers that the students are taking private lessons either at the
studio or somewhere else, so they are going to get more technique
outside of the class.)

The stigma I wrote about earlier in some cases came from other
minority students. There was a feeling among some students that being
perceived as less qualified reflected poorly upon you and other
minorities. For example, when I realized I wasn't going to graduate
with my incoming class, I just decided to make the best of the
situation by taking my time doing my thesis and taking some other
classes I thought would be interesting. A friend of mine was trying
to convince me to try to graduate on time, because otherwise I would
be a "statistic" (at MIT at the time, minorities took longer
to graduate than non-minorities). I didn't think it was a good idea
to try to rush things -- I wanted to take my time to do something well
rather than rush through and do poorly.

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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