Exclusives: Raising Kate
PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What in the heck is
Frick made of, and how do you say "R" in Arabic?
Homing in on a major is all in the details
May 4 is the deadline
for freshman course selections. Punitive fees for late course cards
run $50 for each day past the deadline; factor in the fact that
Princeton is raking in 10 cents on each cup of water sold at Frist,
and you can see why Hal Shapiro isn't the only reason the endowment
has climbed to eight billion dollars. Filthy lucre and the lure
of profit can motivate anyone; there's a reason, after all, that
students sign up for classes like Stochastic Calculus for Engineering
Since the calculus class
I took during my senior year of high school almost stood between
me and a black-and-orange beer jacket, I had sworn off math courses
early on, thinking I was relegating myself to an undistinguished
future as a liberal arts major. This is no longer the case: According
to a recent article in the New York Times, the State Department
is in desperate need of college graduates who are proficient in
Of course, I'm a long
way from proficiency. The other day, I caused a stink when I mistakenly
referred to the Arabic letter "raa" as an "r". After class, when
my professor questioned me about my linguistic lapse, I told her
that I had momentarily forgotten the name of the letter.
"When you asked me the
name of the letter, the first thing that popped into my head was
'aire,' the pronunciation of the letter 'r' in French," I told her.
"But I knew that couldn't be right, so I guessed 'r' instead. I
figured it could be the same in Arabic as it is in English."
"It's a good thing that
you didn't pronounce it the French way," my professor told me. "Because
'aire' is the Lebanese word for penis."
"And I bet you would
have pointed that out if I had said it, right?" I asked her.
"Of course," she said,
and then she laughed.
But while the article
in the Times has more or less cemented my future as a policy wonk
or international spy, Princeton is still trying its darndest to
widen the collective horizons of its students. Take, for example,
the epistemology and cognition requirement. For the fall 2001-02
semester, students interested in fulfilling this requirement can
choose between anthropology and philosophy courses. To be honest,
I'm not up for the high-level navel gazing required by philosophy
courses, since the paradoxical question I most often ponder is why,
at a school full of socially inept engineering majors, I can't get
a date for houseparties. So it looks like I'm going to have to complete
the epistemology and cognition requirement with an anthropology
I brought the issue of
course selection up with my friend Katherine. A freshman from Massachusetts,
Katherine completed organic chemistry while still in high school
and, at the green age of 18, is planning to major in the field.
Although she is still in the process of choosing fall courses, she
is planning on taking 400-level chemistry and physics classes.
"I'm halfway finished
with my lab requirement," I told her. "I took geology 201 last semester.
Did you know that it's widely considered to be the pinnacle of the
gut class hierarchy here at Princeton?"
"You learned a lot in
that class, and I think it's great that you can identify the composition
of campus buildings," she kindly told me. "What kind of rock did
you say they used to build Frick?"
"Uh, I forgot," I told
her. "But I'm sure I've got it somewhere in my lecture notes."
"I also want to take
The Literature of Fact," Katherine told me. "It's being taught this
semester by a man who writes for the New Yorker."
"I want to take that
class, too," I said. "But I'm going to wait until John McPhee teaches
it. He's written a lot of books about geology, so I'll have a leg
up on the application process due to my expertise in the field."
You can reach Kate Swearengen