The two lecture classes this semester are on media history, and advertising and society. The "textbooks", that is to say, the required reading, seems really diverse. Luckily we've been able to avoid too many textbook-ie textbooks. You know, the kind that spew a bunch of terms and years at you to memorize instead of teaching you to understand the implications of those terms and the things that happened in those years. Critical thinking is fun. Each will require a final paper (yay!).
The only other classroom class this semester is ballroom dancing, which is great as a stress reliever and as exercise. Having taken it ten years ago (from the same instructor, mind you), it seems easier. Maybe it's the confidence, maybe it's the other dance classes taken [like hip-hop], whatever it is, it's fun. Hopefully there will be real-life opportunities to use the skill.
Of the six classes total this semester, the three remaining are a bit different; two are independent study (one in communications, one in political science) which means they are self-directed reading. The first (the PoliSci) requires a weekly "conference" with the professor (the one from last semester's PoliSci class, and a favourite) to discuss elements in the reading. The first book of three (self-chosen) is Culture War? The Myth of the Polarized America by Morris Fiorina (not to be confused with Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Hunter). It's interesting, but perhaps a bit outdated, which means fresh new polls can be brought to the table for discussion. It's an easy read, and probably the easiest of the three. Jury is still out on whether or not, in 2015, the polarization is a myth. The other two are: Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences by John R. Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith, John R. Alford and Digital Disconnect by Robert W. McChesney. It should be a fun self-directed course with much learning.
The other independent study course requires twice the books, which...is fine. Each book requires a 4-5 page paper (not a "book report" or book review however). More like the critical reflections from the Knowledge, Truth and Reality class last Spring...but with different types of books related to communication topics. At the end a final paper is required that juxtaposes all of the reading...somehow. We've already blown through the first two, which were Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Both are really good books and recommended reads.
The papers related to them have yet to be written, but there's time, after all.
The four additional titles for this self-directed study course are: Advertising as Culture by Chris Wharton; The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture by Terry O'Reilly, Mike Tennant; Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman
As a quick recommendation of high caliber, this book: A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, which is a text for media history, is stellar from the get-go. A pure pleasure to read. (hint: go out and buy a used copy! You can get them for less than $10 on Amazon if you're lucky)
So, that's it.
You can probably expect something interesting soon.