College courses created by students include looks at Mad Men and Seinfeld

The University of California-Berkeley has a program called DeCal. In the program, college students teach other college students for college credit. One recent article about the program highlights how some of the courses take a longer look at television shows:

That’s because the popular show based in the 1960 is the subject of a fall course.

It’s a two-unit class that meets once a week in the school’s DeCal program. It focuses on the “thematically, symbolically and historically rich television series.” DeCal classes give a platform to students who want to dig into atypical subjects, according to the university.  This fall’s topics range from a class on the “Sociology of Seinfeld” to longboarding. DeCal is run by the students themselves, but the classes give real college credits…

The teachers…say they are covering the following themes:

  • contemporary culture
  • politics of the 1960s
  • the role of women, class and society
  • the family unit

Students have more than just a television show to watch as homework, they are also given supplemental reading assignments.

I can imagine one category of reactions to the article: “of course, when you let students teach their own courses for credit, you will end up studying television shows.”

On the other hand, there are courses like this at other schools where media content, film, movies, and other cultural products, are analyzed. As one of the student teachers suggests, Mad Men could be read/watched as saying important things about our culture. Not only does it offer some reflection on early 1960s life, it also could be read as how people in 2010 view that era.

Overall, teenagers (8-18 years old) and emerging adults (18-25) consume a lot of media-produced stories like Mad Men. Courses like this might help them better understand what they are viewing and how it lines up with the real world.

(I would be curious to know what kind of evaluations these kinds of courses receive. Do students perceive that they learned more or less in a student taught course? And then, did they actually learn more or less?)