LER sophisticates me

Mike Crissman

Until last week I hadn’t had a use for any of the things I’ve learned in the LER (Liberal Education Requirement) classes I’ve taken . . . and then I turned on my iPod.

I was on my way home for Thanksgiving break when I turned on my mp3 player, scrolled through the artists and realized — for the first time ever — that I had actually learned something useful from an LER.

About two years ago, I came across a CD titled “The Most Relaxing Classical Music in the World.” I’ve always appreciated classical music. It’s the perfect music for relaxing, studying or watching snowflakes fall on a cold winter day (from inside a warm building, with a tall mug of hot cocoa and slippers). It’s not quite as chill as Enya, but it’s up there.

I put the two-disc classical CD on my iPod and —much to my frustration — all the songs were separated by artist. As you may know, this just ruins your mp3 player. For example, when downloading a Jay-Z album, you get the following: Jay-Z feat. Drake, Jay-Z feat. Kanye West, Jay-Z feat. Kid Cudi, etc. So like many rap albums, this classical one filled up my artists’ page.

For two years I’ve scrolled over some really foreign names on my iPod not knowing what songs they made, knowing only that they were all from the relaxing classical CD I enjoyed so much. Where there was George Harrison, there was George Frideric Handel. Where there was Franz Ferdinand, there was Franz Liszt.

I didn’t know any of these musical geniuses’ names until I took the Understanding of Music this semester. It is a relatively easy class that gives you a survey of the wonderful history of classical music. You get to expand your musical palate by listening in class to not only the popular pieces you’ve heard your whole life, but some of the more obscure ones.

Thanks to the class, I realized last week for the first time while looking through my mp3 player that I did learn something valuable from an LER. I saw the names Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Dvorak and Debussy and actually recognized who they were. I immediately felt wiser, 40 years older and much more inclined to play chess in a public park. All of a sudden, I’m one well-cultured son of a gun.

Every Kent State student is required to take 36 to 37 hours of LERs in order to graduate. According to the university website, LERs are meant to “broaden intellectual perspectives, foster ethical and humanitarian values and prepare students for responsible citizenship and productive careers.” If that means knowing that 18th century composer Antonio Vivaldi composed “The Four Seasons,” then mission accomplished.

I haven’t found a practical application yet for the things I learned in Modeling Algebra or Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe. Even if I do, I doubt it’ll be as meaningful as that magical moment of enlightenment that happened to me last week while scrolling through my iPod.

Mike Crissman is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].