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The Return of the Main Event

By Isabel Kallman

This post is dedicated to BOSSY’s son who’s just starting at Columbia.

Nineteen years ago this week I was starting my first-year at Columbia University. I felt beyond fortunate to be going there. It was the only school that was out of my reach when applying for college. So, I didn’t even bother to research their curriculum or anything else for that matter. I sent in my acceptance letter and a check before they changed their minds.

I was very excited to kick-off my studies with choices for all different classes, ones that weren’t your generic math, social studies, English, like in high school. But as we settled into our dorm and registration approached, all my new classmates could yammer on about was the Core Curriculum. Yes, it has its own Wikipedia entry! “The Core,” as it is known, is a series of required classes in western civilization (literature, philosophy, art, music) that all entering students take. But, it’s almost two years worth of classes. Imagine my disappointment. No choices!

Only in my senior year did I learn (during a US history class) that the Core Curriculum was started after World War I as a means to unify the freshman class. New students were coming in from all over the country and Columbia wanted to make sure the guys (yes, Columbia didn’t go co-ed until the 80s) had at least one thing in common with each other. I guess teen angst wasn’t universal back then. See, I forgot to share that not only are all the Core classes identical, the reading lists are too.

Yep, no choices.

But, to my surprise, there was something very comforting about not having to worry about more decisions. And, then there was the electricity. Walking into the grand library hall and seeing first-years all reading the same book at the same time. And, there was the chatter, all of us discussing The Decameron, for example, while feeding each other grapes. (I kid).

I haven’t felt (or noticed) that much energy until this summer.

After years of a gazillion cable channels, niche social networks and the long tail everywhere, we’re all abuzz and atwitter about the same things.

I love being able to read the Twilight series, watch the Phelps Olympic history-making moments and observe Election 08 developments with my friends. Albeit we communicate in real-time via technology, not in the library hall or the dorm tv room.

There is something so powerful about the whole nation moved, enraged or inspired by one event.

So, as much as the long tail continues to be sliced and diced, don’t discount the main event. Make yourself available to participate. You may be surprised by how much you’ll enjoy it.

Isabel Kallman
About the Author

Isabel Kallman

Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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Aw, Isabel, this made me tear up. YOU are inspiring.


Comradery is definitely lacking in my life at the moment and this post has inspired me to seek it out.

Suburban Turmoil

LOVE this post. And um, I love Edward Cullen, too.