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Monday, October 16, 2006

The Simpsons 101: What should we be learning in college?

I was talking with my friend Heather today, who attended the University of California at Santa Cruz. I've never visited the UCSC campus but I know that the school has a reputation for being a hippie school. Nothing wrong with that; my own alma mater has that reputation, too. Anyway, we got to talking about courses we took in college. I was talking about how I'm writing one of those lame touchy-feely papers for my reference course, and she mentioned that she had to write tons of those as an undergrad: UCSC offered courses like the Sociology of Love, Women in Popular Culture, a course on the Simpsons, one on the Grateful Dead, and one on the Muppets.

As an undergraduate English major, most of the papers I wrote were decidedly NOT touchy-feely. I wasn't cracking the genetic code, but I wasn't writing about how television makes me feel, either. I remember taking a gender studies course (that was my first mistake) and having to sit through a presentation that consisted of a mix tape of Ani DiFranco's music. Worst. Class. Ever. Still, though, that was probably the flakiest course I took in college. There were probably other, much flakier classes being offered, probably in the Comm or SoAn departments, but I wasn't on either of those tracks.

It's always seemed foreign to me that people could watch TV or read magazines for college credit and/or a degree. The article that I have linked in the title of this post mentions that the study of popular culture can be made a rigorous academic experience, with connections made between hip hop and history, the Simpsons and satire. I've never taken a course on hip hop or the Simpsons, so I can't say how rigorous or how easy such a class would be. I can't help but think that these courses do not in any way indicate a real education.

And yeah, I know that, with my English degree and requisite courses in Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Virginia Woolf, my peers who have studied the exploitation of women in Cosmopolitan or the politics of the East Coast-West Coast rap wars or whatever will be making exponentially more money than I. Good thing I don't care!

3 Comments:

  • Did I mention these two courses:
    "The secret sex life of plants" (which I took)
    "Will the real Jesus please stand up" (which I wish I had taken)

    However, these were just regular classes with fun names to trick students into taking them. The plant one was a history/biology course about man's discovery of sexuality in plants. We did however, get to read 18th century homoerotic plant poetry...

    Ok, I didn't go to a real school. My degree is printed on red construction paper.

    No, but really, I still read Shakespeare, Pluto, Fucault, and learned history, astronomy, all the regular stuff just some of it was in the context of the contemporary (popular) world and discussed our feelings.
    And I think that if you can teach people in a way that is interesting and meaningful to them then there is never anything wrong with that. However, Ani DiFranco should never be allowed.

    By Anonymous heather, at 3:21 PM  

  • During my philosophy major days, I took an Aesthetics course (the philosophy of aesthetics), part of which discussed the evolution and meaning of subcultural style. I have to say that it was one of the best, most challenging courses I took and not at all flaky. I think that "flakiness" is a value judgement (that I pretty much make daily) that should sometimes be examined.

    Of course, I quit philosophy and graduated with a BSc. Oh well.

    By Anonymous Lorien, at 1:12 AM  

  • Dude, I was a comm major and I take offence to that... well... I did watch commercials and look at magazines for my classes but hey that's hard.

    By Blogger Aundra, at 4:21 PM  

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