April 30, 2003

Popular Culture

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Seventh in a series on interesting courses at Cornell.

Glenn Altschuler PhD ’76, Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies, began last Friday’s class– American Studies 201-202: American Pop Culture — with the announcement that the day’s scheduled lecture on the “Dumbing of America” would be moved to next week.

“Slope week is a better week to talk about the ‘Dumbing of America’ anyway,” Altschuler said with his characteristically offhanded wit.

Students credit at least some of the course’s popularity to Altschuler’s sarcastic humor. The class, which is popular with a variety of students, is routinely capped at around 200 students because of limitations in teaching assistants. This year over 400 students pre-enrolled for the course.

Altschuler, who is also the Dean of the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, attributes his class’ popularity to a general university trend of students enjoying classes that apply to current events.

“The closer you get to the present the more popular a class becomes,” Altschuler said.

Jessie Myers ’05, who is taking this semester’s 202 sequence said, “Who would not want to talk about Playboy, Marilyn Monroe, and Disneyland?”

Many students genuinely enjoy coming to class. Friday morning’s lecture, for example, was packed. When asked about this trend, many students agreed with Murteza Haidri ’04, who credited Altschuler’s wit and the interesting contents of lectures. More than anything, students say that the course is ‘fun’–where else can they discuss the significance of Bon Jovi or watch and discuss the Guns and Roses