Fleeing in Slow Motion From an Exploding Warehouse 101

How suggestible are the nation’s college students? Very:

Boston College German studies professor Michael Resler went searching for a way to boost flagging interest in his “German Literature of the High Middle Ages’’ class a few years ago, and settled on the idea of simply giving the course a sexier name. The resulting “Knights, Castles, and Dragons’’ nearly tripled enrollment.

Resler then replaced his class on “The Songs of Walter von der Vogelweide,’’ a great German lyric poet, with “Passion, Politics, and Poetry in the Middle Ages.’’ Again, enrollment swelled.
“I suppose the moral of the story is that we live in an age where everything has to be marketed in order to find a willing audience,’’ Resler mused.

As schools compete for students and faculty come under pressure to boost enrollment in their classes, colleges from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to Wellesley are jazzing up course catalogs to entice a generation of students drawn to the dramatic. This year’s offerings include crowd-pleasing topics like massacres, superheroes, and sin.

My favorite? Suffolk University’s “Sacred Hoops, Sneaker Pimps, and Hoop Dreams: Race, Gender, and Consumerism in 20th Century American Basketball.” The course catalog entry is here.

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Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.