The tuition for the local Catholic high school - some $5,000 per year for each of my two eldest - would surely put a dent in the family budget, but if that was what it took to give them a real education, it was worth it. Or so I thought.
I could have saved a bundle simply by renting that education at Blockbuster.
To study the subject of suicide, a religion teacher had her class watch the movie "Ordinary People." In another theology class, students watched "Philadelphia," since apparently the priest was unable to formulate a discussion on the topic of sensitivity toward AIDS sufferers. Over in health class, the children watched "Mask" to learn about drug education, then the angry, and ugly, "And the Band Played On" to learn some more about AIDS.
Forget the content in these movies. Set aside also the politically correct topics allegedly addressed in these films. WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE THESE STUDENTS DOING SPENDING THEIR HIGH-SCHOOL YEARS, IN A PRIVATE SCHOOL, WATCHING TV?! we'd demand, never to receive a satisfactory answer.
The correct response: Preparing your child for college.
The September 19 issue of Entertainment Weekly contained a brief article about the many "universities... offering courses and seminars in all aspects of popular culture." According to EW, Brown University students can study "The Films of Clint Eastwood"; one class at Northern Illinois is devoted to the study of "Music Video"; on the "reading" list for Old Dominion's "Television and Society" is that complex, cerebral prime time epic that so influences Western civilization as we know it: "Friends."
It was only a matter of time before the academic community turned to Hollywood for grist for the mill of academic silliness. According to the September 15 issue of National Review, some courses offered in the Ivy League include "Fetishisms" (Harvard) and "Circumcision: Male and Female, Jewish and Gentile" (Brown again). The invaluable Young America's Foundation, too, published a report containing its picks for the twelve worst college courses in America. Among them:
-"Queer Acts," Oberlin. (Note to Marv Albert: Men are "encouraged, but not required" to wear women's clothing to this gay-themed class.).
-"Feminist Cyborg Fiction," University of California at Santa Cruz. One of the characters students will read about is "a lesbian of color vampire" (sic).
-"Mathematics for the Environment," University of Colorado. Topics include "acid rain, population growth, and road-kill rabbits in Nevada."
-"The Social Construction of Whiteness and Women," University of Massachusetts at Amherst. YAF notes that "the description of [this] class... makes no mention of reading books or writing papers... However...'students will work in groups to design and implement activist projects.'"
-"Mythic Patterns of Patriarchy I," a Boston College seminar which analyzes such matters as "manifestations of phallotechnology." (The really scary part is that apparently there's a "Mythic Patterns of Patriarchy II.")
The YAF list also recognizes the significant presence of the entertainment world in education today. Emory's "The Look of the Perverse" examines such movies as "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Basic Instinct." The University of Iowa offers "Elvis as Anthology." University of Wisconsin students can take "Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles." (Yep, a class about soap operas.)
Expect these courses to catch on, thus opening our children's minds to a world of new possibilities. My recommendations:
-"'Animate and Inanimate Sculpture from Athens to Manhattan.' Dorsal aspects of classic Greek marble figures are contrasted with the bare backsides of "NYPD Blue" cast members."
-"'The Physics of Melrose Place.' Explores, among other things, how many cast members can get into a bed before it collapses, and the multiple meanings of 'coefficients of friction.'"
-"'Prime Time Human Development.' Explains how Jamie of 'Mad About You' could be pregnant for twelve months, and how, during a summer hiatus, sitcom infants age into four- and five-year-olds capable of adorable speech."
-"'Historical Accuracy in the Films of Oliver Stone.' Thirty-minute seminar; includes ten-minute coffee break."
-"Steve Urkel: Man-Child... Child-Man... Does Anyone Care..."
-"'A Metaphysical View of the Weblets.' Is there definitive proof that UPN and WB are not the same network? Can they - it - be proved to exist at all?"
-"'Men Behaving Badly,' Marxists Behaving Dialectically.' Are dysfunctional television characters affected by alcohol, sloth, or stupidity, or is it insufficient class consciousness?"
-"Communicating Through Symbolism Throughout History: From Machiavelli's 'The Prince' to the Artist Formerly Known as Prince."
-"A Freudo-Rousseauan Perspective on 'Seinfeld's Kramer." Oops, that one's taken. Seriously. It's the title of a paper to be presented at Bowling Green State University's two-day seminar on sitcoms. Annual costs at BGSU: $13,586.