Some people believe that this generation of college students has no attention span and must be entertained while they are learning, or the education they receive will not hold.
Professors at some universities across the nation think the blame rests on parents and teachers, who pushed students to utilize media.
“Students have a very short attention span, in part because of the media that we as teachers and parents have encouraged them to spend their time with, and in part because we haven’t taught them to have longer attention spans,” said Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at American University, in an article on the online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Information.
MTVu, a university version of MTV that airs on many college cable stations (including USF’s), has a new show that exemplifies this belief that entertainment must be coupled with education. The show, Stand In, involves switching a college professor with a celebrity, who instructs class for a day.
“Hearing a director speak about his work was my purpose in coming (to class). It was just an added bonus to see Madonna in fishnets,” said Rumoi Lee-Hampel in an article on CNN.com.
Lee-Hampel is a senior at Hunter College in New York, where Madonna came to visit his film class after they viewed her new documentary, I’m Going To Tell You A Secret, for an episode of Stand In .
Stand In merges our culture’s obsession with celebrities with college students’ need to be entertained in the classroom. To some in the academic world, it may be sad that celebrities are becoming teachers, but going on the show can be used as a tool by professors to get through to the students who are hard to reach.
For example, there was one episode in which Tom Wolfe came to a freshmen English class to discuss the book they were reading, Wolfe’s novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons. In another, Melissa Etheridge spoke to a Biology of Cancer class about her personal experience with cancer.
Having the opportunities to pick an author’s brain about what he meant in his novel or to hear about the human side of cancer when students are bombarded by technical terms should be ones that many instructors would jump at the chance for. Of course, these kinds of opportunities are few and far between.
Yet a celebrity teaching a college class, even for a day, can be seen as a positive. It could invigorate a student’s passion for the subject. This is a case where obsession with celebrities and the media around them could prove to be a good thing in the education of college students.