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Skidmore College

From prerequisite to passion

August 23, 2019
by Harry Mooney '21

I never considered myself to be the type of student who excels at STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or quantitative analysis. English and history were always the subjects I was most comfortable with and successful at. In fact, it felt like I spent my high school years collecting red “X”s on calculus tests.  

Thus, I had convinced myself that the dichotomous worlds of math, science, rules, systematic proofs and a definitive right and wrong weren’t for me.

But then I came to Skidmore and the liberal arts curriculum challenged me to think differently. 

As a burgeoning philosophy major, I had to enroll in Introduction to Logic.

It’s a requirement.

I went in thinking it would just be a box to check in my academic career. But something about it completely changed the way I thought about philosophy.  

Ladd Hall at Skidmore College

The Philosophy Department is in Ladd Hall

I won’t pretend that logic is stereotypically “cool” (though, isn’t everything cool to whomever is passionate about it?). Regardless, I found myself completely riveted as I used rules and systems to break down things I thought were exclusively abstract — written and spoken words, arguments and more.  

OK, here’s the cheesy part: It felt like I had a super power.

Here I was, the free-associating, conceptually abstract, rule-skirting writer, talking about “sentential logic.”

I’d completely transformed because of one class.  But wait, it gets even better.

It was one thing to study and get good grades, but then something even more remarkable happened.

Thanks to a close relationship with my academic adviser, I discovered I was actually really good, too, and I got the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for the exact class that changed my perspective. 

I decided immediately that I was game, for three reasons: 

1. It’s part of our culture.  

Peer support is deeply embedded in life at Skidmore.

From peer mentors for academics and peer health educators for all things personal and wellness-related, to plenty of informal support systems in between, we students are there for each other. And truthfully, it was an honor to join the club because it meant giving back to the community that supports me.  

2. I get it now. Interdisciplinary study matters.    

I’m so grateful that I learned I could be really good at something I never expected while I still have time left at Skidmore.

Getting the chance to be an approachable peer support for students who may not be too thrilled about taking logic was exciting to me.

Now, I understand not everyone will have an epiphany like I did. But miracles can happen, right?  

3. It means something to me, and to future me.  

Sure, it’s a job. Sure, it’s a very academic-focused experience. Will I use truth tables in my future career? Probably not. But the skills I’m gaining will last a lifetime.

From a class I never expected and a role I never anticipated, I now know what it’s like to coach, mentor and teach. I’ve accidentally given bad feedback (and learned from my mistakes). I’ve given pre-test pep talks that would make Henry V beam. I’ve seen first-hand how people learn differently, consume information differently and can sit in the same room and interpret something from entirely different perspectives. All of which, I’m positive, is priceless.  

Walkway on Skidmore College campus
I would have laughed if someone told me when I arrived at Skidmore that “sentence math” would be my favorite academic interest. But here I am, unabashedly doting about it.  

If Skidmore’s Philosophy Department can make me, of all people, enjoy formal logic, I see no limit to what else it can do. 

About the Author

Harry Mooney

Harry is a junior from North Bridgton, Maine, studying history and philosophy. You will likely find him at the climbing gym, the library, the Adirondack high peaks, or his bird’s eye window seat high up in Jonsson Tower. His favorite building on campus is D-Hall and his favorite color is chartreuse.