Sunday, August 26, 2007

School of Blogs

I love back-to-school. As soon as the nights turn cooler, I start getting the itch for clothes-shopping and course-selection. One of the many things I relate to in Hermione Granger is her desire to pack her schedule full of more courses than it can temporally accommodate, Muggle Studies and Arithmancy jostling for elbow room alongside Divination and Potions. With a course calendar in my hand, I always feel like a kid in a candy store. A graduate seminar on the two Brownings? Sounds fantastic. An undergraduate introduction to Anthropology/Classical Studies/Italian/Developmental Psychology? Sign me up.

When I do course counseling for incoming first-year-students, I find that they fall into three groups. The largest group is career-minded: they want courses that will enable them to get into business school or pursue a career as a speech language pathologist. Even if they don’t have a specific ambition, they are pragmatic in their course selection, looking for a combination of med-school pre-requisites and easy A’s. The smallest group, by contrast, is apathetic: the challenge for them is mustering an interest in enough courses to fill their schedule, which is usually empty except for the first-year Psych super-section (which they’ve heard involves a lot of movie clips).

The final group, though – my favourite – contains the students who are excited about university, unjaded and eager to learn. These are the ones who find it hard to narrow their choices down: can they squeeze in Comparative Literature 025: Sex in Art and Culture and Philosophy 100: The History of Witchcraft? Or should they get their science credit out of the way with an Earth Science course on Darwin? They have that glint of back-to-school excitement in their eyes, and it's always a pleasure to help them sort out their options.

Back-to-school threatens to be a bit of a bumpy transition for me this year. I’m excited about the courses I’m teaching, but I’m also nervous about my full schedule and about Bub’s first year in a classroom environment. But still, I feel the familiar itch. I bought a brown corduroy blazer at H&M yesterday and a dark blue v-neck sweater at Old Navy. This afternoon I pulled down all the toddler-size hats and mittens from the shelf in the front-hall closet and sorted the outgrown gear from the stuff that can stand another year of wear. And I found myself wondering what courses I would sign up for if I could be a student myself this year. What would I choose if I could use Hermione’s time turner to spend another year in school, with no thought of job qualifications or pre-requisites, with no concern other than interest and enthusiasm?

I’d take Art History, I thought, as taught by Julie Q of Mental Tesserae. Or maybe theology, I decided, but only if Veronica Mitchell were teaching it.

I don’t go out of my way to read blogs for educational purposes – but the brilliance of the blogosphere is an education in itself. A school run by mommy-bloggers would be a fascinating place to learn. In that spirit, here’s my schedule of classes in the School of Blogs – the courses I wish I could take, led by the dazzling minds of the blogosphere:

1) Representations of Motherhood in Art. Instructor: Julie Q. This course will offer a chronological survey of the major schools of art from the 1500s to the present day, focusing on representations of mothers and children. Students will learn to examine spatial relationships, colour, and the evolving perceptions of motherhood. No prerequisites necessary.

2) Urban Photography. Instructor: Cinnamon Gurl. In this course, participants will be led on a series of walking tours where they will be encouraged to use the camera as a means of shaping and altering their perception of the urban environment. Attention will be paid to composition, digital enhancements, and the ethics of photographing human subjects. Students must provide their own digital cameras.

3) Home Economics. Instructor: Beck of Frog and Toad are Still Friends. This class will begin with a unit on baking, with special emphasis on cupcake decoration. Crafts and home decorations will be the focus of a second unit, during which students will be required to do a seminar presentation on the non-traditional holiday of their choice. A fee will be charged to cover the cost of ingredients and craft supplies; students will be able to sample their baking in class as well as take home goodies to share with their families.

4) Theology and Literature. Instructor: Veronica Mitchell. This course will examine medieval and modern theological debates through the lens of poetry and fiction. Drawing upon the poetry of John Donne and the writings of G.K. Chesterton, the course will survey the basic principles of orthodox Christianity, including the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the authority of Scripture. This course is cross-listed with the departments of English and Religious Studies.

5) Neuroscience for English Majors. Instructors: KC and Robbin. How does brain chemistry influence human behaviour? What are the biological bases for romantic love, sexual attraction, and long-term commitment? How do genetics and environment interact to form the human brain? If you have ever wondered about these questions, this is the course for you! This course is open to students outside the Faculty of Science; it may not be counted towards a Bachelor of Science degree.


Instructors, I hereby confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Blogging, honoris causa. Use it well, and feel free to pass it on.

46 comments:

Beck said...

Oh, this made me smile SO much! And the funny part was that I was eating a cookie right out of the oven when I opened your page, too, which felt timely. Thank you.

cinnamon gurl said...

Oh this is awesome! I still get that thrill of back-to-school excitement at the first sweet whiff of leaf mold, even though I haven't been in school for seven years and I don't work in an academic setting. What doesn't excitement, however, is how much younger the students get each year.

Thank you for including me in your course selection. I am SO going by Doctor Sin now. ;)

KC said...

*stammering* Doctor of Blogging!I'm totally honored you want to take my class. I promise it will be a lot of fun: looking at MRIs of people's brains while they look at pictures of loved ones, studying the neural basis of mother-child love, seeing how the alteration of one gene can make promiscuous voles into monogamous ones...

Veronica Mitchell said...

When I saw you had a new post up, I stopped reading and immediately went for a piece of pie so I could have two pleasures at once. And then I read too quickly (just like I ate my pie) and for a moment thought you said you wanted me to teach art history, which would be a very, very bad idea.

This is the most intimidating meme I've ever seen, but you've already got me picking out required texts for the fictional class I'm teaching.

bubandpie said...

Wouldn't it be better if you guys actually had to TEACH the courses I've assigned you, in the form of a Fall series of posts?

You can always confer the Bh.D. on three instead of five people - three courses is a full load in grad school, after all.

flutter said...

This is such a great idea! Congrats to the awesome profs...

painted maypole said...

what a fun post!

The class I would have loved to take, but you had to be first to register, was all about the Beatles. If you didn't have that first registration timeslot you were out of luck. I also really wish I had taken some art history classes, as well as the drawing class that i gave up in order to take a class on Isaiah (which was good, and all, but i could use that drawing class in my current job as driveway chalk decorator)

My aunt just got her second masters degree, in basically nothing, but she did it so she could take lit classes and art classes and all that stuff she wanted to know more about. i think it's so cool that she did that, just for her.

mayberry said...

Please expect my depost in the mail -- I am matriculating at this U at the earliest possible opportunity!

slouching mom said...

This is just so clever!

Christine said...

very cool! love this one, and great prof. where do i register?

radical mama said...

Well, at first I was in that second group. That would explain the whole failing-out-of-college when I was 19 thing. But then I came back in that last group, and I get a little teary when August rolls around. There are so many classes I didn't have the chance to take. It sucks. If I can ever afford it, I am totally becoming a lifelong student.

kgirl said...

I'm not that excited for back to school season this year, but I would be if I could take that Sex in Art and Culture course.

Fantastic post, Doctor.

Mary-LUE said...

Amen to this course list! I'm not a visitor to all the blogs you mention, but if they are anything like the ones I do know, I'd sign up at a moment's notice. But you must not forget your own course. I'm not clever enough to name what it would be, but I would consider it mandatory for blog school.

Perfect post for the new school year, B&P.

Kyla said...

Oooh! I see we have two of the same courses! :)

I love this post, B&P!!

Christina said...

How fun! I was one of those students who looked forward to all the new classes I could take. I waited with anticipation for the new course catalog to come out for each semester and would browse it for days, considering which interesting classes I wanted and checking to see if they would fit in my schedule.

Half of the reason I went back to school last year was because I was bored and wanted to learn something new. Nursing seemed interesting.

nowheymama said...

What fun! I'd like to sign up today, please.

Terri said...

I loved this post. I too have a fondness for back-to-school time for reasons similar to yours. But also because autumn is my very favorite season though here autumn doesn't really arrive until November.

I was more in the first group of career-minded students. I think mainly because I was too intimidated by the course catalog which outlined everything I had to take each year for my degree. Being printed in black and white for me then was equivalent to being written in stone. I do remember being jealous of friends who got to take lots of fun classes their senior year when I had to student teach an entire semester. If I could go back and do it over, I would take a whole different approach.

I love reading several of the bloggers you mention and what fun it would be if they "taught" these courses in their blogs. I'm with mary-lue. I'd want to take your course, too, however.

Tabba said...

what a cool post and idea.

congrats to all!!

Suz said...

Oh...how fun! I agree with you and would love to take all of these courses. To cook like Beck! To take photos like Cinnamon Girl!

nomotherearth said...

Back to school always excites me. I would be the person trying to squeeze an extra course or two into the curriculum.

Some excellent classes here to choose from!

Julie Q. said...

Wow, thanks! Now my students can legitimately call me Dr. Julie. (Prior to my honorary doctorate, I had to make them call me "Master Julie.") I would love to teach the class you describe. I'd have to lose myself in a bit of research and planning for a few months first, but I like the sound of that almost as much as taking new classes. I was one of those eager freshmen, pouring over the schedules and debating which of the huge number of classes I wanted to take I would be able to squeeze into my semester. I LOVE SCHOOL. I suppose this is why I'm still in academia. I can't get enough.

Suki said...

Hmm... interesting.
You make me feel old - Second Year in my college course now! :D. Last year I was one of those trying to find my footing, trying as many things as possible to find out what clicked.

Right now, I've found my line - Modernism and Post-modernism, going deeper and deeper into the mental aspects and Foucaltian notions of minorities. For the nonce I think Nietzsche is giving my boyfriend competition! ;)

Yup, learning is fun. :)

Janet said...

I took the History of Witchcraft in my second year at UW. I thought it was just because I was unfocused. I prefer your analysis.

I love this post! I want Beck to teach me how to make marshmallows. I haven't read the others' blogs, but now, you give me reason to travel.

nomotherearth said...

Back again. I saw your comment over at Sin's and I would be very interested in your essay on how two kids are better than one (and closer together). I'm so tired these days, and not especially looking forward to the sleeplessness of the early baby days. I could use some moral support.

Swistle said...

Course catalogs are like menus when you're starving: EVERYTHING looks good. I want ONE OF EACH.

winslow1204 said...

This has been our bst back to school yet!! they kids are totally enjoying it:)

Jen M. said...

I'm definitely an undergrad in this blogging thing - but I agree that you're on to something with bloggers as instructors. What a great blogsophere this is. Anyone who thinks mommy is a synonym for pithy needs to read some of the blogs out there.

Great post.

Beck said...

Just fyi - I WILL be doing this meme, very happily, tomorrow (I wrote today's post last night). THanks again.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I love your course descriptions. I am taking Sin's and Beck's classes concurrently -- Hermione would have loved the internet as a substitute for time/distance travel.

I'm not so hip on the clothes part of back-to-school (I always, always chose the wrong clothes), but I know how you feel about course catalogs. I live beside a small community college which actually does teach basket weaving, but no matter -- I love to page through their course catalog!

Lawyer Mama said...

Fantastic! What a great idea! I love back to school....

Gwen said...

Charming, B&P, really.

I was the student who just took random classes (exhibit A: Religion in China. Huh?) either because they looked interesting, or, sadly, because they started late enough that I thought I might actually be able to get there on time. I was so not a good undergrad.

Your course schedule looks fascinating.

the mad momma said...

great idea. though i wish i could take some of the classes u teach...

you are tagged.

Ally said...

This is so fun! I would love to take some of these classes, too. There's not enough time in my schedule for all the Blog Profs I want to visit.

Patois said...

What a brilliant idea. I'd love to at least audit the courses.

NotSoSage said...

Awesome.

Mad Hatter said...

This post was soooo great. Loved it.

Catherine said...

What a FUN POST!

I still look longingly at class schedules...and I'm not long in school...

And, just a wee bit of Catherine trivia - I love H&M! I used to shop there in Switzerland before it even came to the States!

Aliki2006 said...

Hilarious! What a great idea...I so agree with your choices.

the mad momma said...

good heavens no.. a funny one line will do. in fact i am depending on you to come up with the best... see? no pressure! :)

kate said...

Hmm, I've actually had dreams-- more than once!-- about pouring over a good course catalog! Though I agree that blogs can also be a great source of learning. I'll be checking out some of the ones you've linked to (even if no one actually takes you up on the series-of-postings-course idea!)

wordgirl said...

I miss school too. I wish I was brave enough to go back and get a master's degree.

Katrina said...

Sign me up! Sounds like a terrific course schedule.

Jenn said...

Back to school...my absolute favorite time, even when I didn't have kids heading back.

Just something about the fall says, "Renewal" to me.

Pieces said...

This is such an excellent post. Fabulous ideas. I think I would like to take the same courses as you. We can sit next to each other and write notes back and forth.

Moondance said...

This is an excellent post. I love the way you comment on Ms. Granger - immediately bonding with all of us who did the same while reading the book. I'll bet the last group (the curious, learning for learning's sake students) are overrepresented in the blogosphere. The idea of the bloggers as professors is great, and has now provided me with a list of new bloggers to visit. Thanks for that.

Susanne said...

What a sweet degree! And yes, the bloggers are educational. I tended to overfill my schedule every single year until I had to work for a living. Then my choices narrowed down more to the "I have take this course for credit because I'm working in the afternoons."