At the University of Pennsylvania, students are taught how to waste time—literally. According to The Washington Post, the university will offer a course in the spring of 2015 called “Wasting Time on the Internet.” It is exactly what it sounds like. The course will be offered for creative writing students, and will have them spend their class meetings surfing the internet. As the description for the course puts it, “students will be required to stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and listservs.” More:
The instructor, Kenneth Goldsmith, tells The Washington Post that he will strictly enforce “a state of distraction” among the students — exactly the sort of thing he and virtually every other professor on Earth spends time trying to eliminate from their classes.The purpose, Goldsmith says, is to have the students write something good at the end of the course, as a result of all that forced distraction. Goldsmith says he hopes the distraction will place his students “into a digital or electronic twilight,” similar to the state of consciousness between dreaming and waking that was so prized by the Surrealists.
After pausing a moment (or several) to relish this story, it’s worth recalling that not all students are as well-endowed with time and money as these Ivy League-ers—and one way to save those students money is to let them to save their time. To do so, more schools should consider creating programs that credit “stuff learned” instead of “time served”—such as the competency-based programs now getting attention from public universities like the University of Michigan.Thankfully, “Wasting Time on the Internet” is an elective course at Penn—at least as far as we know. Let’s try to make sure that wasting time in college becomes a lot less mandatory for students everywhere else, too.