Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Odd names, hidden lessons

The sitcom “Community” is a cult classic about community college students in the fictional town of Greendale, Colorado. Part of the sitcom’s charm and humor comes from the ridiculous classes available at Greendale Community College, which include History of Ice Cream, Ladders, A Critical Analysis of Television’s “Who’s The Boss?” and many more.

Though “Community” is a work of fiction, the University of Pennsylvania offers a course that could be in Greendale’s course list: Wasting Time on the Internet. According to the course description, “Students will be required to stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and electronic mailing list software applications such as Listserv.”

What could be easier than playing around on the Internet and getting an easy A? Though your parents or friends may say it’s a ridiculous class or that college education has really gone down the drain, they shouldn’t judge it on first glance. Like the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover.

While students are free to do as they wish for this three-hour class, its ultimate goal is to have the students produce all the content they consume on the Web into a substantial work of literature.

The University of Pennsylvania isn’t the only place out there where you can indulge in outside-the-box classes. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, students can take Topics in Comparative Media: American Pro Wrestling. The students in the class are expected to watch a current wrestling show a few times a week. During the semester, students also have to read various books that, in one way or another, relate to the topic of professional wrestling. At the end of the semester, students have to submit a term paper on the subject of their choice involving professional wrestling and its relation to American and other cultural histories.

While a class on wrestling or just surfing the Internet may sound silly or like a waste of time on the surface, it is easy to see their true depth. Professional wrestling or the Internet, in these cases is just the gateway to reach broader issues in the world and to help students learn using something in which they are already interested.

While “Community” is a sitcom and its classes may seem over-the-top or bizarre, Ladders, History of Ice Cream or other classes the college offers serve as a platform to learning about themselves and the world around them.

It’s OK to snicker at ridiculous course names or descriptions, but they’re worth giving a shot, and not just for an easy A. See what the fuss is or find out if it interests you. That’s not to say it might be a cake walk, but don’t judge a book by its cover. You may learn something.

Email Luis Reyes at luis.reyes@cardinalpointsonline.com

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