Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Harry Potter and the Pandering of Higher Ed





By Professor Doom

 Admin: “You want to offer that course, you need to have ‘Women’ in the title.”

--why “Women and The Works of Steinbeck”, “Women in Shakespeare”, and “Women in Western Civilization” are college courses, among many examples.


     One of the many problems with higher education is the “student as customer” paradigm that has really warped what goes on in our schools. No longer are courses designed in terms of “this course has things students need to know”. Instead, courses are designed in terms of “this is a course students will sign up for.”
 
     Yes, in times past, professors built courses around student involvement, but it was so different. For example, when I wanted to learn about coding theory, the professor built a course around it, and put it on me to get four other students together to make a formal class. Why 4? Because that’s what the minimum class size was like in “the olden days” of the late 20th century, unlike classes today with hundreds of students.

     The pandering towards the student/customers just seems to get more and more blatant. It started with courses with “And Women” stuck onto the title, with an obligatory few weeks spent pandering to the current fad in societal norms. Yes, those might well have been wasted weeks, but at least there was reason to believe the “normal” part of the course still met the usual requirements of being education.

      Then there were courses on Lady Gaga’s social impact. While I certainly have my doubts about such courses, I know that it’s possible to take methods of analysis and apply them to new things. There’s plenty of analysis of Shakespeare; I can accept that maybe changing to a more topical subject might keep students’ attention long enough to help refine their critical thinking skills. Or so I tell myself.

     Then came the flurry of sex courses. I’ve written before of the wildly popular  Deviant Sex” courses…which went too far only in the sense that administration got afraid that someone might get offended. It’s tough to find a campus nowadays that doesn’t have half a dozen courses with “sex” in the title. Even a tiny community college I know had several courses, probably one per hundred students…literally the whole campus taking the classes. No, not much education in those (as the well below 5% graduation rate of that campus can attest).

     So, we have courses based around popular media, and courses based around sex, all in the name of finding something that will help the students part with their sweet, sweet, student loan money.

      Why not combine popular media AND sex? Yeah, it takes a lot of creativity to come up with that, I know. And, here we go:



     Now, don’t get me wrong, Harry Potter is decent enough mental bubble gum, but I found one of the better highlights of the Harry Potter phenomenon was the LACK of sexuality. Seriously, I’m so tired of the cliché “young female uses sexual assets to distract ridiculously stupid male guard while her associates do something” scene that I’m rather impressed that Rowling managed to have characters do more clever things than abuse sexuality (even if it often took polyjuice or magical spells).

      “We'll be casting some sensual spells in CAS room 313. Hope you can apparate there.”
--“apparate” is Harry Potter-ese for “teleport”


     Now, I am glad that this isn’t a formal course for credit hours, just a workshop to teach students about safe sex…but wait a minute here.

     These students are adults, high school graduates at the very least. They’ve already had sex-ed in school whether they wanted it or not, in formal classes that did take weeks to go over every detail (whether their parents wanted that, or not).

      During World War II, we taught our soldiers about safe sex pretty easily, it really only takes a few minutes at absolute most to explain how to use a condom, after all.

“…at the university’s Wellness and Prevention Services program…”

     And here we have the university fiefdom, Wellness and Prevention Services, responsible for this foolishness. When people finally start waking up and looking into why higher education is so bloody expensive, they’re going to see that universities are overrun with fiefdoms, populated with highly paid administrators doing things that are completely irrelevant to higher education.

       These kids may not be adults in every sense of the word, but seriously now. They’ve already been told about this sort of thing many times, and even if they haven’t, you could hand ‘em a 25 cent brochure with all the relevant information…rather than hire a dozen or more $100,000 a year Vice Presidents of Wellness and Prevention to help plan once-a-year “Harry Potter and Deathly Burning of the Venereal Phoenix of Azkaban” parties.

--or maybe the author deliberately chose not to associate sex with her characters? The fan fiction is bad enough…


         I’ll grant that this isn’t the worst sexual-themed attraction administration has put on campus (I won’t even link to the worst of it), but realize, if a great number of students showed up at this Harry Potter-themed Sex Ed class, it wouldn’t take long for administration to think “Hey, this will sell…”.

      And then yet another bottle of academic snake oil will be for sale on campus, at $3,000 a semester. Thanks to completely bogus accreditation, the Federal government has no choice but to provide those sweet, sweet, student loan checks so students can drink this crud down. It’s a shame accreditation can’t force the cancellation of “courses which are obviously straight pandering to students, and of minimal educational value”, but accreditation doesn’t care about education any more than administration.