The Creativity Boom

David Galef describes, with tongue in cheek, the courses that today's students should take to be in the know.

March 31, 2017
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At U of All People, it pays to be creative. At least, that’s what we’re banking on. Google and Microsoft are looking for creative people. Any successful startup in the past decade has begun with a couple of creative millennials and a laptop. Not to mention that creative writing is one of the few non-STEM growth industries in academe these days.

With students desperate to find work beyond a gig at Starbucks, you’d think they’d be less inclined to take a workshop that teaches them how to write a ghazal -- but no. Five years ago, the creative writing program at U of All People swallowed the English department in a semi-hostile takeover and now offers courses in Shakespeare and Creativity, How to Read and Write Poetry Like Sylvia Plath, and Advanced Hemingway and Faulkner Workshops. Business is good.

Of course, in its perpetual quest to boost enrollments, our administration has finally caught on to what sells seats. As of fall 2017, every department and program must have at least one course with some form of the term “creative” in its title. To attract maximum numbers, some departments have even hired copywriters for their course descriptions. Herewith, a sampling of the coming offerings:

JNLSM 220: Journalism and the Creative Edge. Got a good story to tell? Though short-form journalism was taken over by fake reporting years ago, a slavish adherence to the facts still hobbles many major news stories. Find out how to harness the power of your imagination and report what might or ought to have happened instead.

MATH 123: Beat the Curve: How to Be Creative with Statistics. If one person in a group of 100 says she’ll vote one way, and then another person joins her, that’s a 100 percent increase. Don’t like the figures? Take a look at our bar charts!

CHEM 105: Creative Chemistry in Motion. Mix something white with something black and get something purple. Or find out just what nitric acid will eat through! Never mind balancing chemical equations -- be a creative chemist! We even have cool new synergistic test tubes.

SOC 226: Big-Time Funny: Sociology and the Creativity of Humor. What makes people laugh and why? In this hands-on not-quite-lab, we make up our own jokes and try them out on each other. Prizes for the best chuckle analysis.

HIST 201: Who Won What? Getting Creative with History. Why memorize dates and names when you can create video games based on famous battles? Who’ll win the battle of Gettysburg this time? Extra gore, please!

ANTHRO 116: Creative Anthropologists Do It in the Field. What makes different cultures creative? We don’t really know, but we get mighty creative in our guesswork. Maybe it’s something tribal -- or based on urban legends.

ECON 157: Buy! Sell! Supply and Demand for Creativity. Line up five economists and get six different opinions -- now that’s creative! The secret is in our models. No, it’s in the GNP! Check out our economic role-playing app at www.uap.edu/econ.

LING 145: On the Tip of My Tongue: Speech and Creativity. What’s another word for snow? And another? And another? Isn’t this fun? Does it mean anything that snow spells wons backwards?

SPAN 222: Forget the Verb Forms -- Just tell the Story in Creative Spanish. Most upper level language courses have you learn more about the culture that speaks the language, but in this course, you write flash fiction in Spanish. Create your own story -- en español!

PHIL 206: Nothingness, Logic, and Creativity. In this seminar, students learn to argue for propositions based on sheer nonsense. Nothing is more fun than that! Get it? Get it!

ENGL 333: Chaucer Studies. The Canterbury Tales, The Parliament of Fowls and Troilus and Criseyde. Midterm and research paper; class participation essential. [This course has been CANCELED for lack of creativity.]

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David Galef directs the creative writing program at Montclair State University. His latest book, Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook, was recently published by Columbia University Press.

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