Zombie Course at Monmouth U. – Waste of Time Perhaps? [POLL]
My dad, while insisting I go to college, always summed up his feelings on a college education by laying this pearl of wisdom on us.
"You kids go to school to get stupid!”
And I could never dispute his contention that common sense always seemed to allude a good many people who claimed to be well educated.
Street smarts over book smarts – and my dad and his ilk would always opt for the latter.
So I have to wonder, given the perspective of being out of college a few years now, if anything’s changed – especially given the fact that colleges still offer courses that, to many, seem to have no useful purpose other than to be a waste of time.
Take for instance, the Zombie course being offered at Monmouth.
Monmouth University is the latest school to offer a course on the growing zombie phenomenon. Zombies: Social Anxiety & Pop Culture was among the first courses to fill up when students at the private university in West Long Branch registered for fall classes.
Getting into the minds of mindless zombies is plenty of fun, according to students in the three-credit course. Those lucky enough to land a spot in the 25-seat class have picked apart AMC’s zombie-themed television show "The Walking Dead" and donned their own zombie costumes on a field trip to Asbury Park’s recent "Zombie Walk."
As the semester winds down, students are preparing a real-life evacuation plan for campus buildings in case the zombie apocalypse finds its way to the Jersey Shore.
But studying zombies also involves some serious scholarship, said Edward González-Tennant, the assistant professor of anthropology teaching the class.
"Most students are coming in thinking we are just going to be watching zombie movies or TV shows. We do very little of that," González-Tennant said.
Much of the class focuses on the historical roots of the zombie phenomenon.
"It’s a mix of science and religion," González-Tennant said. "There is a lot of folklore and oral tradition of zombies in Haiti and the Caribbean."
Monmouth is among several colleges jumping on the zombie scholarship bandwagon. The University of Baltimore and Columbia College in Chicago both offer zombie studies classes. Michigan State University offered a two-credit course last summer on surviving the zombie apocalypse in which students were placed in survivor groups in a simulated zombie attack.
Last month, the University of California at Irvine launched a noncredit online course, open for free to anyone, called "Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead.’" In an unusual arrangement, the creators and cast of the zombie show are collaborating with the four professors leading the eight-week course to help weave the themes of the program’s fourth season into the classes.
"There will be something for everyone in this course, which will explore concepts as varied as post-disaster nutrition, the foundations of human survival and stereotypes in a Darwinian environment," Zuzana Bic, a tenured lecturer in public health, said while announcing the launch of the UC Irvine class.
Scholars have found deeper themes in zombie tales, including lessons about race, gender, war and social structures.
In other courses, including his current zombies in pop culture class, González-Tennant asks students to make their own zombie movies or graphic novels. He has been surprised by the creative results, including one project in which a student used a zombie tale to explore his friend’s heroin addiction.
"Zombies are a metaphor to explore other things," González-Tennant said.
Yes, I’d agree…such as a metaphor to explore some of what goes on under the Gold Dome in Trenton - or in the halls of academia.
But seriously, do you see any value in courses such as this – especially given the high cost of attending college; and the burden of student loans most graduating seniors carry with them for years?