When New York University freshmen start class Tuesday, among their course selections will be, “Guitar Heroes (and Heroines): Music, Video Games and the Nature of Human Cognition.” It’s a freshman honors seminar about how video games help us learn.
Dr. Gary Marcus, renowned expert on childhood learning and the instructor of the course, told the New York Post, “Video games are an understudied area. People dismiss them unfairly, but Guitar Hero is a good tool for teaching and I’m interested in the nature of learning.” No word on what it is that Guitar Hero teaches.
Regardless of any merits the course may have, some parents are scandalized. “I just wrote a big check here,” Glen Jackson, father of an incoming freshman, grumbled to the Post. “I’m not paying for him to study video games.” Well, there’s always a one-in-a-million shot that Guitar Hero expertise could lead to gainful employment: a North Carolina 16 year-old dropped out of school last year to play the game professionally.
Among the questions the course will consider is, “why are human beings so passionate about music and so easily sucked in by video games?” The goals of the Freshman Honors Seminars Program are “to introduce [students] to important subjects [and] to challenge them intellectually through rigorous standards of analysis and oral and written argumentation.”
For the more traditional honors freshman, there are also seminars on Galileo, Hobbes and de Tocqueville. Other NYU course choices this fall include “The Poetics of Television” and an undergraduate science class, “Can Exercise Change Your Brain?” which begins each class session with an hour-long aerobic workout.