The Academy?

David Petina

January 1, 1991

One of the major problems facing the country today is the inability to educate America’s youth. George Bush made this problem a campaign issue in 1988 by claiming he would be "the education President" if elected. During his term President Bush has continued to make education a priority by calling an education summit and stating that the United States will once again be first in math and the sciences by the year 2000. Among the current plans for reforming the American educational system are the school voucher program and Minnesota’s program of statewide school choice. But I feel that reforming only the primary and secondary schools is an incomplete reorganization, the nation’s colleges and universities also require change.

As college students, my friend and I have a direct interest in the reformation of American university education. The decline is obvious to us not only from all the various reports from education "experts", but also from our own firsthand observations as college students. In discussing this degeneration we concluded that the type of courses offered is a major, if not the major, cause of the downfall of the American university. While none of the courses below is taken directly from any university’s catalog (at least not intentionally) it represents a logical continuation of the evolution of offerings at far too many institutions of "higher" learning.

Arch/Art 420: Sand Castle Building (4 hrs, prereq: Design I&II)

A new offering delving into the different schools of sandcastle design, special emphasis is placed on the Californian, Australian, and Mediterranean schools. The course will also discuss the impact of medieval castles on the early work in the field. The lab will stress the basics of sandcastle design necessary to pursue a career in this exciting yet vanishing field. (Plastic shovels and buckets provided)

Bio/Soc 110: Human Sexual Relations (3 hrs, prereq: none)

This seminar-type course will discuss the many considerations of a sexually active adult. Previous discussion topics have included: "New Scoping Techniques for a New Decade", "Where to Find All the Naïve Freshmen, and How to Ensure that They Don’t Remain Naïve", and "Condoms: Use It or Lose It!". Participation (in class discussions) required.

Bus/Phys Ed 318: Stadium Salesmanship (4 hrs, prereq: Salesmanship)

A study of the sales techniques of vendors at a local stadium. The lecture portion emphasizes various vending styles and discusses their application in everyday business settings. The lab requires students to go to the stadium individually to observe the techniques in operation. At the end of this course students are required to put the abstract lessons of the term into practice by working as a vendor for a game. (Lab fee covers cost of vendor’s license.)

Comm/Lit 312: The Movies of Frankie and Annette (3 hrs, prereq: none)

A survey of the many classic "Beach Blanket" films of these two respected artists. The course demands a basic understanding of communication theory and applies this to the movies studied, which usually include Beach Blanket Bingo and Back to the Beach. As per student requests, the lab sessions, which required watching the movies, have been dropped.

Econ/Soc 410: Supply and Demand: A Case Study of Beer and Condom Prices in College Towns (3 hrs, prereq: Macroeconomics)

The course allows advanced economics students to apply the basic knowledge gleaned from previous courses towards two staples of collegiate life: beer and condoms. Questions addressed include: "Why do prices for these items increase in direct proportion to the proximity to a college campus?", "Are prices artificially inflated by store owners out to make a fast buck?", "Is a command economy the only feasible answer to this economic problem?", and "Does this affect the life of a typical college student?"

For Lang/Mus/Pol Sci 435: Drinking Songs of the World (4 hrs, prereq: Better Living Through Chemistry)

An examination of how the drinking songs of a nation reflect its existing political and social order. The songs are translated so their lyrics are understood, then students learn to sing them in the native language thus gaining a true feeling for the music. Lab work entails further practice of the songs at a local pub to enhance student understanding of the socio-political impact of the songs (i.e. having beer thrown at the musicians).

Hist/Mus 212:The Impact of the Beach Boys and the Bee Gees on America (3 hrs, prereq: none)

An historical evaluation of musical impact on society as exemplified by these two giants of the music industry. Topics previously examined have included: "’Help Me Rhonda’ as the rallying cry for a generation", and "’Staying Alive’: did this song help perpetuate the drug culture in America?." Other influential artists such as New Kids on the Block and Tiffany have also been proposed as discussion topics.

Lit/Mus 300: Heavy Metal Lyrics as Existential Literature (4 hrs, prereq: none)

A survey of the lyrics of several Heavy Metal bands coupled with a discussion of how this music reflects Existential Thought. In order that the student may better appreciate the heartfelt depression and alienation of the artists, the course requires that students spend one hour per week in the music lab listening to the music currently being discussed. A term paper is also required, previous topics have included: "Slayer & Sartre" and "Camus as reflected in Megadeth."

Math/Phys Ed 101: Scorekeeping (3 hrs, prereq: none)

A must course for anyone interested in sports who needs to fill their mathematics requirement. Students learn the scoring systems of many sports. The class starts with the relatively easy system of soccer, progresses through baseball, hockey, basketball, and football, and eventually covers the complex scoring systems of tennis and golf. Scorekeepers’ nightmares such as the three point shot in basketball and football’s two point conversion are discussed.

Phil/ Phys Ed 220: Tennis as a Cultural Force (3 hrs, prereq: none)

This course is designed to give the student, especially those not involved in physical education, a greater understanding of the impact which tennis has had on mankind from ancient times to the present. Lecture topics may include "The racquet: A Victorian Phallic Symbol?", "Serving and Pre-emptive Military Strikes", and "The Relationship of Serve and Volley Tennis to Corporate Business Takeovers". No previous tennis experience required.

Phil/Phys Ed 251: The Philosophy of Surfing (3 hrs, prereq: none)

A course which delves into the various schools of philosophical inquiry as they are expressed in modern surfing techniques. Students learn how Greek philosophers were bumming because they had not discovered surfing and discuss the impact that the surfing lifestyle had on 1960’s thinker. Some basic knowledge of surfing, or California residency, required.

Phys Ed/ Poly Sci 221: Beach Volleyball and War (3 hrs, prereq none)

This course centers on the martial aspects of this recreational activity. Students learn how Hannibal employed basic beach volleyball tactics when sacking Rome, the relationship between the "Island Hopping" strategy and the set, and why Sinjun Smith and Karch Kirally would be history’s greatest generals.

Physics/Psych 380: The Physics of Lycra & Spandex (3 hrs, prereq: none)

This advanced course begins by discussing the physics behind these modern wonder materials. Students will also be presented with the various psychological theories on Lycra, from Freud and Skinner to Friedan and Steinem. The social and environmental effects of Lycra and Spandex will also be discussed.

It is not my intent to ridicule all courses that attempt to combine two different fields of study, nor to say that doing so necessarily lessens the quality of education. Instead, my intent is to point out that such courses often force two tenuously related or dissimilar lines of learning together in a wholly unsatisfactory manner leaving the student, now armed with misconceptions of these fields, worse off then if he had ignored these areas all together. it is unfortunate that instead of challenging students to actually learn something about many fields (the original intent of a liberal arts education), we create artificial courses which could degenerate (if they have not already) into the mindless drivel exemplified above. I feel that eliminating courses similar to those above from college curriculums, and instead returning to a liberal arts background composed of substantive courses is necessary. By teaching courses in each discipline which are substantive, the natural similarities and relations between the subjects will become apparent to the students. It is this natural interconnectedness that interdisciplinary courses try, but often fail, to show. Only by giving students a solid background of knowledge, can the problems misguidedly addressed by interdisciplinary course offerings be solved.

David Petina is a senior from Mentor, Ohio, majoring in Mathematics and Political Science and minoring in History.