Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Doctor is in...class

Though just where and how is a bit curious. The doctor I have in mind isn’t Lucy Van Pelt, but rather is, you know, The Doctor, of TV fame: Doctor Who. Starting in January of 2015 Prof. Anthony Rotolo of the Newhouse School at Syracuse University will be offering an online course on The Doctor and his time-traveling adventures.

The course involves live Monday night public lectures at Syracuse which will be recorded and made available online along with “15 weekly modules in which students will conduct home screenings, complete assigned readings and contribute written analysis, among other activities. The contact hours and rigor of the course, if completed in earnest, will be equivalent to a 400-500-level college course.”

The course is currently not being offered for credit. An article in The Daily Orange, the Syracuse student newspaper, suggests that getting that done takes a bit of time:
For two years, Rotolo worked extensively on researching and reading about the series. The “Doctor Who” class is something that he is doing on his own time. Rotolo is currently trying to get the course listed as part of the SU curriculum, but it is an ongoing process.

“Eventually, it may be something students can take the normal way,” Rotolo said. “But until then, I didn’t want to wait any longer to do this… It was far too late to create this course the old fashioned way.”
Why? I know that prospective courses have to go through an approval process, but still, I’m curious about why this one isn’t being given for credit. I know enough about the academic world to know that many faculty object to giving formal credit for pop culture, but Rotolo has already given a Star Trek course for credit. Is Doctor Who different from Star Trek in any way that would matter in this context? Not as far as I can see – now all he has to do is offer a Godzilla course and we’ll have trifecta. Perhaps the curmudgeons have decided to dig in their heels this time around.

Who knows?

In any event, it seems to me that this is the sort of course that would help to revive the status of the humanities in the public mind. Lots of intelligent and interesting people watch Doctor Who. Knowing that Syracuse takes The Doctor seriously implies that Syracuse takes them seriously. And if non-students can enroll in the course along with students, that further bridges the gap between the academy and the public.

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