We have all seen enough movies and TV shows to know that the dead are pesky little buggers and we should always be as prepared as possible. That being said, San Diego State University has taken its first steps to ensure this!
According to KPBS, this year San Diego State wanted to combat student apathy by offering a class with irresistible pop culture appeal.
“The name of the class is one word: Zombies,” SDSU professor Emily Hicks said.
This is the first time Hicks is teaching a class on the undead, and like George Romero before her, she understands that zombies are just a jumping off point. Romero saw them as a blank slate for social commentary; Hicks sees them as a teaching tool to bring topics back to life. For instance, students that had grown bored with issues of racism and classism, or who felt singled out as examples because they were economically challenged, are now engaging in vigorous discussions on the topics.
“We’re talking about blood and guts and all kinds of things that are sort of leveling so I’ve found that some students are tired talking about multicultural issues in general in my other classes but not in the zombies class,” Hicks said.
Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide is assigned reading for San Diego State students, and they’re ravenous for such content. You won’t find any brain-dead kids in this class; everyone’s synapses are firing away, and that’s exactly what Hicks had hoped for.
“I have fallen in love with this class because everything we want as teachers for our students to do, which is to get engaged, to take notes, to prepare for classes in between classes, to always want to get up on stage and show us whatever they’ve discovered, explain what they are going to write about — all those things happen in this class without me saying anything,” Hicks said.
San Diego State isn’t the first institution to let zombies shamble into the classroom. The University of Baltimore was one of the first to offer zombie classes back in 2010. There’s also been a surge in scholarly books with “zombie” in the title. Two of them — American Gothic Zombie and Race, Oppression and the Zombie — are required reading for Hicks’ class.
Students also watch films. Like the Canadian film Pontypool, which is unique in suggesting that zombie-ism spreads through language. The film inspires students to use their brains to consider how words gain their meaning and how that meaning can break down.
Professor Hicks likes the way zombies are reanimating her students.
“I have taught here 30 years, and I have never had students so excited about writing a mid-term,” Hicks said.
The mantra of most zombie films is “aim for the head” San Diego State took that to heart, aiming for the minds of their students through the blood and gore of the zombie apocalypse.
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