Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Long Days Journey into Higher Education

So I have been away since this past Saturday in Baltimore, Maryland at a conference for work.  I work in the Higher Education system, and I am currently a graduate student at Bowling Green State University in the College Student Personal program.  Many of you may ask what two questions 1) What does that mean and 2) How does this connect with the theme of the blog?  Well the answer to one is tough-I basically am getting a masters in college administration and theoretical perspectives of understanding college students.  Its interesting and the conference was a blast-I did my first Drag ever and it was to Grease (I am not a pretty woman).

The answer to the second question is the focus of this blog post-as I was sitting in my bed relaxing tonight I was thinking about my work environment and the way college/higher education is portrayed in film.  Film rarely portrays things as accurate but there are traces of authenticity within the subtext.  College films are interesting hybrid-many show the gross over representation of partying/drinking/ and the non academic focus (because well that would make the film less interesting.)  Now I know some college students drink and part, I realize this, but it made me think what should college movies be about-what movies about college are out there and what do they say?

The First film that comes to my mind is of course the classic, Animal HouseAnimal House (if you have never seen it) is about a fraternity at college who is filled with underachievers who constantly party, have low GPAs, and are constant battle with administration to stay recognized by their college.  The movie is hilarious!  Yet when I think about this film and the profession I am in, I can't help but think about the good guy vs. bad guy motif that the film sets up.  The fraternity men are portrayed as idiotic but love able heroes who are trying to save their chapter from the evil Dean Wormer who wants them to be more serious and take their education more seriously.  The Dean Wormer character is a douche, but an over exaggerated douche, which works for the plot.

I never was in a fraternity, and I don't directly work with students in fraternity and sororities on a day to day basis, but films like this often give students who are entering college a false impression.  Many students think and or look to join these organizations because they are one giant party-but there are also great leadership opportunities involved and tremendous networks.

As a lover of film, I look at Animal House as a hilarious comedy that helped shape many successful careers like John Belushi, Tim Matheson, and Kevin Bacon.  There are so many classic like scenes and lines that I don't think ever stop laughing when I watch this movie.  I don't find the movie offensive, but yet I work in the profession/field they are criticizing.  This movie was released in 1978 but was set in 1962 where there was a shift in higher education-the Vietnam War was about to happen, and the student mentality at that time was question authority. This film was a reflective piece of history in a period of turmoil in higher education.

Now I may be making Animal House sound smarter than it is-in fact I know I am.  There are many negative portrayals in this film that carried onto Van Wilder, Road Trip, and many other films centered around either a fraternity or male behavior in college.  An accurate portrayal of college would be a great change of pace. The sad part about this is that audiences may not be willing to want to understand higher education more, thus preventing future students from understanding its purpose.

Now off my higher education soapbox-Films have a powerful impact on viewpoint and perspective.  Animal House is just one college film (from 1978) and its cultural influence still impacts my job and professionals who work in colleges.  Think about your own jobs and how the media portrays, is it accurate?  With many more college films than Animal House I could go on forever-but after my long trip it is time for bed.

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