Comic Books: Required Reading

Forget the classics! Comic books, modern best-selling novels and controversial non-fiction books are becoming standard texts in college classrooms.

Recently, the American Institutes for Research found that most college students lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks. Now, comes this story from the News-Record.

Apparently, professors at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are requiring their students to read some non-traditional textbooks. Lecturer Tracey Salisbury uses the following books in her African American Studies course: "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word," "Beyond the Down Low" — a book that describes "straight" black men who have sex with gay men, and “Birth of a Nation," a comic-book novel by the creator of a popular cartoon strip.

The article goes on to say that Professor Salisbury "encourages her students to read the books in public to see the reactions they get and the conversations they start." Meanwhile, in one particular English class, students are required to read "Watchmen," which his described as "a dystopian comic about superheroes who are outlawed by presidential order and struggle with existential dilemmas."

One student interviewed by the News-Record said, "You know what kind of class it’s going to be from the way the professor chooses a textbook. If it’s exactly what you expected when you walk in, the professor could just be going through the motions and teaching the same thing the same way they’ve been doing it for 20 years or whatever. If they choose something they think will interest you and challenge you, you know they really care."

Are comic books challenging?

What’s happening on college campuses across the nation? The cost of tuition is skyrocketing while the quality of education is plummeting.

Consider this: those who wanted to attend Columbia College in 1785 had to "render into English" Caesar’s Commentaries of the Gallic War, the four Orations of Cicero against Catiline and the Gospels from the Greek. Not to mention "turn English into grammatical Latin" (tip of the hat to Jim Nelson Black’s "Freefall of the American University").

And that’s just for those who wanted to get into Columbia College. Imagine what took place inside the school if admitted.