At universities across America (and the globe), students are learning about philosophy, anthropology, and politics through the most popular books, movies, and television series of our time.
From Harry Potter to The Hunger Games, professors everywhere are utilizing pop culture to teach students complex concepts and ideas that simultaneously encourage students to learn and explore a variety of subject matter through their favorite characters and film series.
For many college students, Harry Potter is the emblem of their childhood: nights spent reading under the covers well past their bedtimes, watching the movies on a rainy weekend afternoon, or visiting Harry Potter World on family vacations to Florida. Well now students can put all of their Harry Potter knowledge towards college course credit! At Oregon State University, freshmen can take an orientation class entitled “Finding your Patronus”, which teaches students about developmental phases faced by many college students and the real-life applications of the sociology of J.K. Rowling’s imagined wizardry world.
Another Harry Potter course, entitled “The Science of Harry Potter”, is now offered at Frostburg State University in Maryland. Students on the course are able to analyze magical concepts using physics, biology, engineering, and chemistry. Is time travel actually possible? How does Bernie Bott get every flavor into his jelly beans? These questions and more will be answered if you register for this course!
What Would Spock Do? Philosophy through Star Trek
While Star Trek fans have long advocated that their beloved television show is much more than entertainment, university professors are now in agreement. Georgetown University in Washington, DC has started teaching a course that appeals to Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike: “Philosophy and Star Trek”. The course itself is an introduction to metaphysics and epistemology philosophy, and students examine these complex ideas through the adventures of the characters as they travel to lands ‘where no man has gone before’. In addition to watching episodes of the popular television series, students also read traditional philosophical texts.
Another Star Trek-based course has popped up at Indiana University, entitled “Star Trek and Religion”. This course studies the show’s religious themes through both watching episodes of the television series and also reading spiritual and religious writings. So whichever course you choose, be prepared to check out both DVDs and books from the library!
Worst Exam Ever? Learning to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse
Zombies are incredibly popular in today’s culture. From award-winning television shows to themed walks, the undead are everywhere – and now they’re coming to a college classroom near you! Columbia College in Chicago and the University of Baltimore in Maryland both offer courses on zombies in the media and pop culture (entitled “Zombies in Popular Media” and “Media Genres: Zombies”, respectively) that focus on the history of zombies in literature, film, and television.
Michigan State University now offers an online course entitled “Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Disasters, Catastrophes, and Human Behavior” that examines the logistics of survival and the real-life implications of zombie apocalypse scenarios on disaster preparedness and planning. Though conducted online, students also have to complete tasks in their survival groups – hopefully everyone makes it to the final exam!