If you are not a senior graduating in May, chances are that you have recently registered for the summer and fall 2014 semesters or will be in the near future. One of the struggles of registering has always been being able to sign up for the classes that are required and then figuring out which classes sound the most fun and are still eligible electives.
Sometimes, if a class is not offered that semester but you were planning on graduating, the university can make arrangements to have a different class count for a specific credit. For example, I had to do that this semester since one of my required classes for my major was not offered.
Although registering is a pretty awful time of the semester (I always got super stressed out by it and am feeling good that I finally don’t have to do it ever again), it can be fun once you’re all signed up, as long as you’re taking some fun classes. The word “fun” is obviously very subjective, but some universities are trying to create classes that will be more engaging for students, by focusing on celebrities.
Back in January, Rutgers University announced that it would be launching the start of a class focused on Beyoncé. The Rolling Stone article stated that “Politicizing Beyoncé will explore ‘American race, gender and sexual politics.’” Maybe it’s because I’m not the biggest Beyoncé fan, but that doesn’t seem necessary to me. I didn’t really understand why the entire course had to focus on Queen Bey instead of just focusing on “American race, gender and sexual politics” and bringing in examples, such as Beyoncé. However, this was the first type of class I had heard of that was focusing exclusively on a celebrity, so I thought that maybe it would be cool.
As the semester has progressed, other universities have made statements declaring their own celebrity classes, including a sociology of Jay Z class at Georgetown, a sociology of Miley Cyrus class at Skidmore College, and an English class focusing on Jay Z and Kanye West following the American Dream at Mizzou.
The publishing sequence that I am majoring in is in the English department, and I’m a sociology minor, so looking at these courses being offered at other universities throws me off. I understand wanting to have students be more engaged in course material, and obviously that happens when students are more interested. I’m sure that these courses have well-thought-out course curriculums since many of these universities are prestigious.
However, as a sociology minor, I don’t understand why these courses focus solely on a celebrity or two. The main points of these sociology classes tend to focus on the thoughts of gender, media, entertainment, and identity, but they are using the celebrities in question as a lens to view these sociological quandaries. But again I ask — why couldn’t they just use celebrities as examples of the class instead of having it focus entirely on one celebrity? Yes, they might get more student enrollment, but I’m curious how many students will feel like they actually learned something from taking those classes instead of taking a traditional class with examples from all over the board.
Furthermore, if a student is so interested in viewing a particular celebrity from an educational lens, maybe he or she should look into taking an independent study. My roommate took one last semester, and she constantly talked about how much she liked her professor and how much she felt like she got out of taking it. I am currently enrolled in one, and although it was arranged to really take shape midway through the semester and I have not done very much for it so far, I can tell that I will really like the paper topics since there is more freedom.
I understand that these universities are trying to stay connected with their students, and for that, I think they deserve credit. They are looking to shape their curriculum around what they believe students may be interested in and still learn, but I think that they may have gotten off-track. I don’t see a need to focus on one celebrity exclusively for any class other than a music class (or other appropriate medium), and I’m glad that Illinois State has tried to change its curriculum in a way that fits the needs of students but does not necessarily scream “trying too hard,” like I feel these other classes do.
Grace Johnson is a senior publishing major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding her column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.