At first, I thought about assembling a staff for my proposed new College of Human Interaction, but concluded that after paying professors more than $150,000 each per year, hiring an administrative staff with yearly salaries of more than $250,000 each; and assigning myself a salary of about $400,000, along with an annual performance bonus of about $60,000; that I’d have zero enrollment because students couldn’t afford the stratospheric tuition fees required to support my budget.
So I decided to scale back the curricula and teach the courses myself. And even though I’m certainly not qualified as a college professor, I figured a lot of this material is pure common sense.
Here are a few of the course descriptions under Human Interaction (HI) to perhaps whet the appetite of those interested in disengaging from the cyber world and learning how to truly interact with their fellow human beings.
HI 102 Listening (3 credits, MWF 9-11 a.m., Baker Building No.1 )
Practicum in direct face-to-face communication with emphasis on retaining the content of what the person says rather than just tuning them out and waiting for them to stop talking. Exercises in developing a true interest in what other people say and responding appropriately, without interrupting.
HI 201 Conversation (Prerequisite: HI 102) (3 credits, T Th, 10-Noon, Baker storage shed)
Basic fundamentals of putting Smart Phones away, shutting off Facebook and engaging people in face-to-face conversations. Intensive coaching on how to say “hello” and “how are you?” and then waiting for a reply. Instruction on maintaining eye contact and how to become genuinely interested enough in persons to ask them questions about how they are doing. In addition to term paper, students are required to fully document at least 10 meaningful conversations with people during the semester. (A course supplement is a four-week Smart Phone Withdrawal program administered by a licensed clinician).
HI 204 Manners (4 credits, Lab, MWF 2-4 p.m. Baker Building 2)
Principles of treating fellow human beings respectfully. Lab work includes social simulations: not swearing in public; voice modulation; opening doors for others; not spitting on sidewalks; allowing people with only a few grocery items to get in front of you at grocery checkout; picking up dropped items for others; removing your loud and obnoxious children from restaurants and movie theatres. Final exam includes three-hour field test.
HI 304 Road Etiquette (Prerequisite: HI 204) (3 credits T-Th, 9-11 a.m., Glenn Highway staging area)
Course is based on the latest time/motion studies that reveal auto drivers can get to destinations in a timely fashion without swerving in and out of traffic, changing lanes, tailgating and running red lights. Training in how to refrain from horn honking at the car ahead one nano-second after the light turns green. Field trips to auto junkyards to see mangled cars towed from highway wrecks. Night-driving instruction includes practice in dimming lights for oncoming cars. Rubbernecking coaching includes the fast “look and look away” technique as opposed to the protracted stare. For students involved in wrecks during the course period, tuition fees are not refundable.
HI 405 Thinking (3 credits) MWF 8-11 a.m. Top of Flattop mountain)
Basics of non-interrupted contemplation; isolating oneself from external stimuli and accessing inner workings of the mind. Course includes practicum in the development of original ideas followed by critical analysis of those ideas before speaking and acting. Term paper required under general theme: “Thinking Versus Reacting.”
There are other courses I’d like to add to my curricula, such as “Cultivating Patience for Others” and “Realistic Expectations about Alaska’s Economy,” but I’m on a shoe-string budget. As it is, if ever do get my college on wheels, I’ll probably have to offer the aforementioned courses for free.
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River.