An article about unusual college courses, with Zombies in Popular Media as its prime example, appeared as the cover story today in the Chicago RedEye. Here’s the part with me in it:
Make no mistake: The Zombies In Popular Media course at Columbia College Chicago is no blowoff class.
The film class offers five hours—a day!—of watching, critiquing and writing. But it’s still far outside the realm of standard college courses, and instructor Brendan Riley, an associate professor of English at the school, likes it that way.
At Columbia, he said, “we’re training artists, mostly.” The goal with classes such as the zombie one is simple: “getting them to think about the art they’re making in a more complex way.”
With classes either kicking into high gear (at Columbia) or getting ready to start soon (at Northwestern University), now seems as good a time as any to explore the most exotic fare on the collegiate menu.
The phenomenon doesn’t appear to be limited to Chicago-area schools. A recent CNN report dug up courses such as a Philosophy and “The Wire” class at Georgetown University and a Cyborg Anthropology class at Lewis & Clark College. As more and more schools choose to offer offbeat, ultra-specialized or just plain weird classes, the teachers of those courses say they’re just reflecting a change in the way universities approach education.
Riley, for example, said that while 30 years ago, a class might have focused on memorization of details, dates and names, courses now increasingly try to impart critical thinking to their students.
“The shift away from the canon is representative of that shift away from education’s role as provider of fact,” Riley said. “It’s not as important to remember what day the Civil War ended on because that date is two seconds away in my phone.” (link)
I’m going to try and grab a couple physical copies on my way to town today.
Updated with the cover photo 23 Sept.