Before coming to Middlebury, I was sure of a few things: I wanted to take a new language, be in a play or two, and stay as far away from history and the sciences as possible. Much to my chagrin, I promptly discovered that due to the 7 of 8 distribution requirements at Middlebury, I would have to choose the better of two evils. My natural instinct was to avoid latex gloves, bunny brains, toxic chemicals and extra hours so I begrudgingly signed up for a history course, The American Mind.
On day one, I realized that I was one of two girls in the class and one of the only who had never taken any other history courses at Middlebury before. The professor explained that the course would consist of reading primary texts of American thinkers, rather than other historian’s description of thoughts and events. Each class, we read two to three texts from significant thinkers in our country’s history and wrote summaries for our favorite one. Individuals studied ranged from George Washington to Bill McKibben and included both traditional and radical thinkers.
Reading direct texts from such prominent thinkers was unbelievably exciting and empowering. The course permitted me to travel through time and feel as though I was in the same room as Abraham Lincoln, discussing his ideas and future plans. I remember that often, I would read a text aloud to make it come alive even more, and when I found one reading to be particularly interesting, fortunate friends or family would act as my (eager) audience. I worked extremely hard in this class as the material was novel to me and I was certainly forced out of my zone of comfort. However, the class was equally rewarding and handing in my final exam marked an accomplished moment. Not only did I feel that I had a significantly improved my grasp on our country’s foundations, but also that I had come to view history distinctly and much more enthusiastically. That spring, taking a history elective became a priority and that Christmas, Abraham Lincoln’s hardcover biography topped my wish list.