The General Honors Course

In a survey carried on LUMS Discussion Forum related to academic reading, 50% of responses found academic reading dense and boring. Additionally, a further 26.5% found the sentence structuring and content difficult to decipher. The difficulty grasped by aforementioned numbers is generally imputed to a lack of priority that we accord to reading. Most of the people believe that reading is an activity one harnesses at primary level. From high school to college, the material undoubtedly gets more dense and complicated. However, little is done to raise up the reading expertise that still wanders at the elementary levels. Ideally, reading ability should rise proportionately with the difficulty level of the text. Nevertheless, the relation breaks down. Reading just like tennis, swimming, or singing is a complicated art. The lack of appreciation of complexity entailed leads to declining levels of reading. Columbia University, in similar concerns, introduced a course namely “General Honors”. The course included texts from philosophy, history, politics to physics. Examples include The Federalist Papers, Plato’s Republic, Machiavelli’s The Prince, The Communist Manifesto, Einstein’s The Evolution of Physics etc. The course was open to a selected cohort of juniors and seniors. The inspiration of the course was not only to introduce great philosophical and scientific works of western civilization but also to make students more adept at reading dense material – a skill that they shall extrapolate and carry throughout their lives. The tradition is not just limited to one of the Ivy League. France, for example, took a step further in order to infuse literary sense within its people. What they call explication de texte, literally interpretation of the text, is a skill which must be practiced at every educational level and in which improvement must be made before one moves up the educational ladder.


In the survey discussed above, 67.7% responses preferred to go to secondary sources to complete their reading assignments rather than going through the texts themselves. 58.8% of the responses expressed distaste for the compulsory university cores of Islamic Studies and Pakistan Studies owing to their reading intensive nature. However, 94.1% of the responses believed that reading skills could be enhanced. The statistics insinuate that the problem doesn’t lie with the dearth of realization. Rather the problem concerns the lack of adequate skill to bridge the gap between reader and the text. In this scenario, the conventional wisdom to read more might just not work. How come a physician treat his/her patient without mastering and having his/her toolbox at disposal. To address the issue, this article suggests the introduction of a course aimed at reading skills and ability at LUMS. The objective of such a course can be two-fold. It can, like that of Columbia, be an instrument to expose students to great works of the time. At the same time, it can refine and further empower students to access philosophical material with dexterity. Such course will not only ease student’s experience with reading courses but will also add to LUMS’s endeavors towards pursuing academic excellence.

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