There’s a line in one of the "Star Trek" movies…might be Wrath of Khan…where Kirk admonishes an old-school-skeptical Dr. McCoy that, despite the riches of veteran experience, there’s things to learn from youth: “Young minds, new ideas, be tolerant!” he said, probably with several dramatic hesitations, cuz it’s Shatner ya know…
Anyway, this quip comes to mind as tomorrow I begin my sixth year teaching “Introduction to Public Relations” to undergrads at Loyola University.
Here’s what I’ve learned thus far about “young minds.”
Walk into just about any college class and you’re generally going to find (1) those who have a genuine interest in the subject (2) those who want to do well no matter what (3) those who are there because they need the credits (4) those who are there because somebody told them the class wasn’t that hard and (5) those who are destined to be cared for by the State.
Every semester there are those who excel, those who “get by” and those who need to embrace the good ol’ Puritan work ethic and stop watching reality TV for 17 seconds.
I try very hard not to become cynical about “today’s young people,” who fail to get my jokes, who are masters at blank expressions, who feel impelled to tell me that their non-A work merits an “A,” who just aren’t nearly as jazzed at the idea that public relations may have been the greatest force of change in the past century, who only want to talk about “putting on parties” and developing PR strategies to help Kim Kardashian, America's most hated villain.
Young minds, new ideas, be tolerant!
Yeah, shutup, Kirk.
Of course, there are no boring students, just boring teachers, but as anyone who has spent five minutes in the multi-nuanced gallery which is my condo knows, I must be the exception to that rule.
Granted, part of the challenge is teaching an EVENING class that runs 2 ½ hours a session, that’s enough to put anyone to sleep unless your instructor is a cross between 1980s Robin Williams and Yoda. Which I’m not.
But as part of being a good PR practitioner is knowing your audience, I’ve taken time to tailor my class to the interests and inclinations of the age 18-22 set. First, I hand out Pokemon trading cards, say “yo, dude” a lot and sprinkle my lectures with quotes from MTV Jersey Shore’s Snooki. And if that fails, there’s always Red Bull and chocolate chip cookies.
I’m kidding, of course.
Seriously, I understand that now more than ever, people, particularly young people, expect to be engaged in any form of communication. They have to be PART of it. The days of the stodgy professor who starts the semester by blowing a thick cloud of dust off his lecture notes, droning on and on while students write and write, learning little except skills that may come in handy for those who decide to become stenographers, are over.
I include a lot of VISUALS in my lectures, videos snippets from sources ranging from CBS SUNDAY MORNING to THE DAILY SHOW, not to mention portions of documentaries that I think make important points about the nature of public relations—and not all of them positive.
It’s not my job to be the PR person for PR. Public Relations, history shows, has had its dark side, and I think it is important to see what PR can do, pro and con. As I tell my class, PR is a lot like a hammer. You can use it to build homes for the homeless or you can use it to stove someone’s head in.
It’s kinda like being Spiderman.
With PR comes great power and with great power comes responsibility.
Note the hip, comical Spiderman reference, btw. Hope the kids like it.
If you were teaching a room full of adults-in-training with varying interests in public relations and the communication arts in general, what might YOU do to get them excited about the topic? Let me know your ideas and soon, as class starts tomorrow!
Baby on board
Beyonce will be giving Blue Ivy a sibling in the near future.Get the details