College Teaches Class On 'Mean Girls' Movie
The title, "Queen Bees, WannaBees and Mean Girls," may sound silly or even a waste of time, but you hit the course description and see that you'll be learning about "motives behind why women seek authority and the actions they are willing to take in order to hold onto it."
There are odd-sounding and even "bizarre" class names, as Mental Floss reports. The publication put together a list of 22 unusual choices from a single college semester. They included "Theory and History of Video Games" at Swarthmore, "Zombies in Popular Media" at Columbia College Chicago, Santa Clara University's "Joy of Garbage", and "The American Vacation" at the University of Iowa.
Taking cheap shots at course titles that sound like filler material for the academically challenged may be easy. However, as the descriptions show, there is often far more behind the concepts. For example, the Mean Girls class requires analysis in the context of Greek mythology and Machiavelli's The Prince, a classic text on the acquisition and application of power.
"Ultimately, it's about making the course material more palatable to the students by allowing them to learn through more similar context, more entertaining context," said Guy Golan, an associate professor of public relations and public diplomacy at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University, in an interview with AOL Jobs. "There is another element to these fun courses. Many times colleges and departments compete for students between them. By giving entertaining titles, you are more likely to attract students from other colleges."
Although the titles may have a pop-culture sound, the contents are often academically rigorous. For example, here is the description for "Zombies in Popular Media":
Golan mentioned a course, called "Diversity and Disney Princesses", at Syracuse. "It's a course that deals with stereotyping, social identity, and diversity issues, but in the context of Disney's princesses and popular culture," he said. "It maybe breaks down the concerns the students may have about dealing with complex topics by making them more approachable. Instead of dried jargon and complex concepts, we are making it more palatable to the students."
This course explores the history, significance, and representation of the zombie as a figure in horror and fantasy texts. Instruction follows an intense schedule, using critical theory and source media (literature, comics, and films) to spur discussion and exploration of the figures many incarnations. Daily assignments focus on reflection and commentary, while final projects foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie.
In the end, "the course title doesn't really mean that much," said Golan. "What parents and administrators should worry about is the substance of the course. If we can convey the concepts and do it in a more entertaining way, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it."
If the name game sounds a lot like marketing, well, it is. Higher education is definitely a business and we are competing for the top students," Golan said. "The silly course title is the packaging but the curriculum is the substance. So long as the professor is true to the curriculum, we might as well make it entertaining."
And, in the long run, offering courses that don't require critical thought and research won't get far. "These kids are paying way too much money for any of us to waste their time," Golan said.