Catholic School Back To School Shopping: Myths vs. Realities

Ah, Back-To-School Shopping : such a gentle, consumeristic way to get over the end of summer vacation. However, as two life-long Catholic school students, our experience wasn’t everything the Staples and J.C. Penney commercials led us to believe. I’m watching the cycle all over again with my nieces and nephews – the public schoolers getting cute new outfits and the Catholic school kids getting their first necktie at age 5. [Find me something cuter than a kindergartener in business casual.] In honor of our ’90s and ’00s memories, here is a study in the contrasts between back to school shopping for Catholic schoolers and, if not real public school students, at least the too-cool public schoolers we saw on TV.

Clothing

File under: My childhood as a walking Irish Catholic stereotype.

Expectation: I’m going back to school with a new wardrobe that will mark me as one of the cool kids!

Reality: I am wearing the same plaid jumper from the same Plaid Jumper Store as all of my classmates. Somehow, kids manage to sort themselves into Cool and Uncool anyway.

[Note: there is a 50/50 chance your uniform is a hand-me-down, or your mom bought it at the used uniform sale your school holds at the end of the school year.]

Expectation: At least maybe some fun, cute outfits for after school!

Reality: Those are called “play clothes” and they don’t come from the store, they come from a trash bag your aunt drops off every time your next cousin up has a growth spurt.

[Note: I realize there are Catholics without cousins but I’ve never met one.]

Accessories

Expectation: And don’t forget the accessories!

Reality: … Which are knee socks, a navy blue cardigan, and a shirt with a Peter Pan collar during that five-decade range after Peter Pan collars went out of style in the ’60s and before they came back in style on Zooey Deschanel.

If you’re fancy, please add a headband in the same plaid as your uniform.

Jewelry

Expectation: Wearing some jewelry, I guess.

Reality: Bracelets are not allowed. Non-post earrings are not allowed. Necklaces are a pendant on a thin chain. If you want to consider rosaries jewelry (“WHICH THEY ARE NOT” – every Catholic reading this post, before I could even say it, right?), you can have those. But you cannot wear them, for Pete’s sake.

School Supplies

Expectation: Lisa Frank binders! Lisa Frank notebooks! Lisa The Frickin FRANK IT ALL UP.

Reality: There is a specific, solid color that every subject uses. Does The Vatican secretly operate the Mead company?

Expectation: Don’t forget a trapper keeper to stay organized!

Reality: Trapper Keepers strictly verboten.

Hair

Expectation: It would be so much fun to try a bright color or a crazy new ‘do to show people how much I’ve changed over the summer!

Reality: “No extreme hairstyles” – Catholic School Student Manual 29:11

Shoes

Expectation: I will narrow down the most in-style looks and then pick out some sneakers, a pair of cute shoes, and maybe something a little dressier.

Reality: Your uniform requires shoes that meet all of the following criteria: black or navy blue. No laces. No wedges. No mules. No sneaker soles. Heel must measure less than one inch at the highest point. No ballet flats.

You are left with orthopedic nun shoes.

[Note: If you’re really wondering how we sorted out the cool kids, their moms bought them cute shoes that skirted the Shoe Canon of the student handbook, whereas uncool-kid moms followed it to the letter. As to what camp I was in, let’s just say I still like a sturdy pair of Clarks.]

 

 

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Pop Culture Extra Credit: College Edition

A couple months ago, my alma mater, Emerson College, announced that starting in the Fall of 2016, there will be a new major available to students – a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Comedic Arts, AKA a degree in comedy. Emerson is a communication and arts school where being a musical theatre major doesn’t make you a nerd and Quidditch is the top sport. We’re known for having unusual or quirky things that you wouldn’t find at a “normal” college. When I first heard the news, I thought, ‘Oh, that makes sense’. The school already offers classes on things like puppetry and “Queer TV After Ellen Came Out”, so yeah, a comedy major sounds about right.

However, it was a much bigger question mark to the rest of the world who went to schools that had classes like Accounting and football teams. Emerson even got a mention from Seth Meyers who suggested students can “just take your tuition money and burn it in front of your parents.” Fair.

So with kids heading back to college over the next few weeks, I thought that there must be other schools out there that offer odd, or pop culture-centric classes. Luckily, the American educational system did not let me down. Here are just a few courses you can take right now – did you guys take any weird classes in college?

Emerson College {Boston, MA}

TV Creators: Understanding the Whedonesque

Description:

This course will use the career of Joss Whedon to introduce students to the variety of positions in the entertainment industry and their potential for fulfilling and creative work… By examining his work at various stages, students will better understand auteur theory, modern industrial entertainment production, and artistic production across media. Works covered include: Roseanne, Alien: Resurrection, Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a film and TV series, Angel, Firefly and Serenity, Dollhouse, The Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers, Much Ado About Nothing, Buffy: Season Eight, and Astonishing X-Men.

Class Notes:

Surprisingly enough, I’m not too familiar with the Whedonverse. The closest I’ve ever gotten is watching Dr. Horrible multiple times over. Back in my day, this class was specifically about dissecting Buffy, and not any of Joss Whedon’s other works. My friend (who shall not be named because in her words, ‘I have a reputation to uphold’) took the Buffy class and had this to say about it: “12-year-old me couldn’t believe she was watching one of her favorite shows in class to achieve a real college degree, but it was surprisingly one of the most demanding classes (work load wise) that I have ever taken.” As I think we’re going to find with the rest of these courses, it may sound silly at first, but it’s probably really interesting and a lot of work.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology {Cambridge, MA}

Topics in Comparative Media: American Pro Wrestling

well this is frightening

Description:

This class will explore the cultural history and media industry surrounding the masculine drama of professional wrestling. Beginning with wrestling’s roots in sport and carnival, the class examines how new technologies and changes in the television industry led to evolution for pro wrestling style and promotion and how shifts in wrestling characters demonstrate changes in the depiction of American masculinity. The class will move chronologically in an examination of how wrestling characters and performances have changed, focusing particularly on the 1950s to the present. Students may have previous knowledge of wrestling but are not required to, nor are they required to be a fan (although it is certainly not discouraged, either).

Class Notes:

Exactly what major is this class fulfilling? I particularly like the disclaimer at the end. ‘You don’t have to be a fan of WWE… except you should probably be if you’re spending money on this class.”

Rutgers University {New Jersey}

Feminist Perspectives: Politicizing Beyoncé

Description:

Calling all the single ladies: this exploration into Queen Bey’s influence on feminism, race, gender, and culture helps students become more aware of the way in which pop culture shapes society. Most classes that are named for celebrities deal with sociologies of fame or psychologies of human behavior, but Kevin Allred’s version zeroes in on politics. By juxtaposing Beyoncé’s song lyrics with readings by distinguished black leaders like Sojourner Truth and Octavia Butler, students ask and attempt to answer the question, “Can Beyoncé’s music be seen as a blueprint for progressive social change?” Yet the more appropriate question may be: Who runs the world? Beyoncé.

Class Notes:

Sign. Me. Up. The person who wrote this description is clearly a member of the BeyHive, so that’s already a plus. But like previously mentioned, this class sounds hard as shiiiit. But that’s what you get when you break down the genius that is Queen B.

Georgia Regents College {Augusta, Georgia}

Good Kids, Mad Cities

Description:

Taking its name from Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 album, this course will examine the role of urban living on the development of young people. In Kendrick’s case, “the streets sure to release the worst side of my best” (Lamar 58). By studying and analyzing various literature, films, and K. Dot’s album, we will consider what effects our characters’ surroundings have on who they become as adults. The cities we will be visiting, in our imaginations, are Dublin, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Class Notes:

This class should be offered at more colleges, TBH.

Middlebury College {Middlebury, Vermont}

Urban America & Serial Television: Watching The Wire

Description:

Frequently hailed as a masterpiece of American television, The Wire shines a light on urban decay in contemporary America, creating a dramatic portrait of Baltimore’s police, drug trade, shipping docks, city hall, public schools, and newspapers over five serialized seasons. In this course, we will watch and discuss all of this remarkable-and remarkably entertaining-series, and place it within the dual contexts of contemporary American society and the aesthetics of television. This is a time-intensive course with a focus on close viewing and discussion, and opportunities for critical analysis and research about the show’s social contexts and aesthetic practices.

Class Notes:

I would take this class for one reason, the same one reason I watch the entirety of The Wire in the first place: Mr. Idris Elba. God bless.

Colorado College {Colorado Springs, Colorado}

Queen Bees, WannaBees, and Mean Girls

Description:

Queen Bees, WannaBees, and Mean Girls explores the means and motives behind why women seek authority and the actions they are willing to take in order to hold onto it. Students will examine this concept through the use of literary works and movies, such as the 2004 film Mean Girls.

Class Notes:

Temporarily ignoring the fact that first sentence makes it seem like this class is slightly sexist, it would be interesting to take a look into this culture of mean girls. And obviously, the class would have to be held on Wednesdays.

American University {Washington, D.C.}

Contemporary American Culture: Hunger Games

Description:

The Hunger Games trilogy is a publishing phenomenon that has dramatically impacted American popular culture. Using the series as a case study, this course examines the interplay of class, politics, ethics, and marketing. Topics covered include oppression, feminism, food deserts, rebellion, the publishing industry, and social media marketing. 

Class Notes:

Hunger Games isn’t just for kids, y’all. I also read “food deserts” as “food desserts” and immediately started to think what significance desserts had in the books, scouring my brain to remember Katniss’ fave food – then I realized it said “deserts” as in, the lack of food pretty much everywhere besides the Capitol. The Hunger Game isn’t just for kids, y’all.

Georgetown University {Washington, D.C.}

Philosophy and Star Trek

Description:

Star Trek is very philosophical. What better way, then, to do philosophy, but to watch Star Trek, read philosophy and hash it all out in class? That’s the plan. This course will center on topics in metaphysics that come up again and again in Star Trek. In conjunction with watching Star Trek, we will read excerpts from the writings of great philosophers, extract key concepts and arguments and then analyze those arguments. Questions we will wrestle with include:

I. Is time travel possible? Could you go back and kill your grandmother? What is time?
II. What is the relation between your mind and your brain–are they separate items or identical? Can persons survive death? Could a machine someday think? Is Data a person?
III. What is a person? Must you have the same body to be you? Same memories? When do we have one person, and when do we have two (think of the episodes where people “split” or “fuse”).
IV. Do you have free will, or are you determined by the laws of nature to do exactly what you wind up doing (while believing you have free will)? Or both? What is freewill?

Class Notes:

This description is VERY thorough. Not only that, but seems questionable. For instance, why is one of the questions, “Could you go back and kill your grandmother?”. First of all, it should be “Would”. Second of all, what? Is this a plot point in the Star Trek series? If yes, WHY? Also, “What is a person?” ??? This could be a very deep and depressing conversation I personally wouldn’t want to have in a classroom setting.

Georgia State University {Atlanta, Georgia}

American Poetry: Kanye vs. Everybody

kanye vs

Description:

According to the syllabus, Kanye makes for a useful lens through which to “investigate the continuous development of African American poetry and poetics—the uses of language and literature to represent blackness and Americanness in particular—observing shifting meanings in and of the text with important considerations of race, class, gender, and sexuality.” Throughout the semester, students decode Kanye’s work and interviews, which Dr. Heath believes help draw a line from the Harlem Renaissance to the black nationalist era to current-day hip-hop.

Class Notes:

Can’t tell if Kanye would love this course or disagree with it so much he’ll interrupt during class to say just how much he hates it. Is that a dated reference? Him and TSwift are all good now? Ok.

University at Buffalo {Buffalo, New York}

Breaking Down “Breaking Bad”

Description:

“Breaking Bad” was one of the most spectacular narrative achievements in television. Its five seasons comprised some 60 hours of a single narrative arc, something no film or television program (cable or commercial) has ever accomplished… In this seminar, we’ll take a close look at all the components of the series; we’ll talk about what was done, how it was done, why it worked. There is one prerequisite: that members of the seminar have seen the series before the seminar’s first meeting. We’re going to be studying it, not greeting it. We’ll look at some segments during the semester, but only so we can deconstruct the work. I’ll expect participants to do class presentations on different aspects of the epic, and a term paper on a topic of their choice.

Class Notes:

Unlike the American wrestling course, watching the series IS a pre req to being in this class. Luckily, most people on this planet have watched Breaking Bad. There’s gotta be something meta about teaching a class about a show that features a chemistry teacher who isn’t the greatest teacher.

University of California, Berkeley {Berkeley, California}

Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular ‘Logic’ on TV Judge Shows”

Description:

TV “Judge” shows have become extremely popular in the last 3-5 years. A fascinating aspect of these shows from a rhetorical point of view is the number of arguments made by the litigants that are utterly illogical, or perversions of standard logic, and yet are used over and over again. For example, when asked “Did you hit the plaintiff?” respondents often say, “If I woulda hit him, he’d be dead!” This reply avoids answering “yes” or “no” by presenting a perverted form of the logical strategy called “a fortiori” argument “from the stronger” in Latin. The seminar will be concerned with identifying such apparently popular logical fallacies on “Judge Judy” and “The People’s Court”and discussing why such strategies are so widespread. It is NOT a course about law or “legal reasoning” Students who are interested in logic, argument, TV, and American popular culture will probably be interested in this course. I emphasize that it is NOT about the application of law or the operations of the court system in general.

Class Notes:

As the lawyer of this Cookies + Sangria duo, I’m sure Molly can support or oppose this much better than I can, but in theory, this class actually sounds more interesting than it should? Although I hate watching court show, I’m sure there’s a psychology to it that can be studied. Or just a reminder of how stupid Americans can be.

 

Orientation Express: Revisiting College Move-In Day 10 Years Later

By now, most kids are back in the school routine and still in the honeymoon period of getting to see friends, being in a higher grade, and brand new school supplies (just me?). With this new school year starting, I’ve been reminded that it’s been a whole DECADE since I began a whole new experience in college. Yiiikes.

Earlier this year, we spent a whole week reminiscing about our high school experience, but anyone who’s been to college knows that it’s a whole different beast than anything you’ve ever encountered in your previous 18 years of living. Whether you stay in your hometown, move to a different region of your state, or go across country, every freshman still gets that ‘Holy crap what am I getting myself into can I even handle this level of responsibility’ feeling on the first day they move into college.

For me, it was a unique experience to say the least. My parents and I loaded up our rental van and drove from Rochester to Boston with all my crap in the back. Here’s a thing to know about the college I went to: it’s right in the middle of the city. Like the “campus” is blocks of downtown Boston. This was the view from the building I lived in my freshman and sophomore years.

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With that in mind, moving about 900 students in on a busy Boston street is no easy feat. A lane of traffic has to be used specifically for freshman, and it has to be done very promptly and efficiently to keep the flow of traffic moving. I remember we pulled up to the building that was soon to be my home for the next 2 years, and looked out the car window to see (and hear) a bunch of screaming, enthusiastic college kids wearing the same shirt and for some reason, were really excited to see my car pull up. After a few admin tasks were completed, I vividly remember the very first moment I stepped out of the car and the important girl with the headset said, “Everyone welcome Traci to Emerson!” and a group of about 15 crazy people said “WELCOME TRACI” and cheered and yelled and started stealing my stuff. No, really. Well okay, they were taking everything out of our car, placing it in carts, and hauling it up to my dorm room so I would barely have to touch a thing (I didn’t lift a single item. It was the greatest).

Me, when first getting to my dorm on move-in day

The kids in the shirts, I would later find out were “OLs”, short for Orientation Leaders, made up of Sophomore, Junior and Senior volunteers who have a lot of Dunkin Donuts coffee and glitter running through their veins. In more recent years, the OLs have taken to dressing up in colorful outfits to, I don’t know, make the freshman feel more welcome? There’s really no way to accurately describe the shock when it comes to the very first moments of move-in day, so here’s a video instead. Also take note of the dad at 1:18.

The rest of orientation week was filled with icebreaker games (THE ABSOLUTE WORST) at this event called Hooray!, a guy nicknamed the “Dating Doctor” who talked about dating and sex, and as a girl coming from a Catholic education for all the previous years of my life, this was quite a change. There was a boat cruise, an epic dance where all the OLs dressed up in various costumes and busted moves along to popular songs of 2004 (similar to this, but imagine it being 10 years ago), and this 1980s safety video for everyone that had never lived in a city before. Honestly, they showed this, and in my opinion, it’s the greatest tradition our college has. A Bahston cop, dramatic reenactments, horrible acting, I mean, really.

“ATMs: probably the greatest invention ever to exist.”

In the end, Orientation week was a good way to transition into college life and not feel so scared about the daunting task of “being in college”. So for you freshman out there who still feel scared or uneasy about your new life, just know that the next four (or five or eight+, depending on the interest in furthering your education or level of long-term commitment)  years of your life will be some of the greatest you’ll ever have. You’ll make lifelong friends, you’ll learn things about yourself, about others, about LIFE. Just enjoy yourself. If those crazy OLs can let go of their inhibitions and wear tutus and banana costumes on the streets of Boston, you can make it through your freshman year.

PS: Please tell me our school wasn’t the only one with eccentric move-in/orientation events! Did any of you guys have a similar or horrible experience?