Taylor Swift Courses Now Offered in US Colleges; Here's Why Academia Dives Into Pop Star Pedagogy


Pop music sensation Taylor Swift has been a focal point of headlines in 2023, captivating audiences with her record-breaking tour, high-profile romance with NFL player Travis Kelce, and her distinction as Time magazine's "Person of the Year."

Now, academia has joined the Swift bandwagon, with colleges like the University of Florida and Harvard University offering courses centered around the musician in the upcoming semester.

The Swift Shift: Academia's Dive into Pop Star Pedagogy
(Photo : UNSPLASH / Jason Leung)

The University of Florida Analyzes Swift's Evergreen Songwriting

The University of Florida's "Honors Program" is set to dive into Taylor Swift's discography, promising students a fearless exploration of 13 weeks dedicated to dissecting her enchanting lyrics. The course aims to draw parallels between Swift's musical prowess and the works of other influential female artists, including Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, and Dolly Parton. However, the inclusion of seemingly unrelated tasks, such as attending a musical about Gloria Estefan and writing online discussion posts, raises questions about the course's academic merit.

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Harvard Examines Swift's Privilege and Influence

Harvard, the epitome of Ivy League education, will present "Taylor Swift and Her World." The course, costing nearly $55,000 a year in tuition, promises to analyze the experience of being extraordinarily popular, influential, and wealthy. Led by transgender professor Stephanie Burt, the class encourages students to ponder what Swift does "with her privilege" and explores the artist's complex relationship with concepts like Americanness and white middle America.

Burt's justification for teaching the course highlights a broader issue - the disconnect between academia and practical relevance. While she believes Swift's influence provides valuable insights, critics argue that such courses contribute little to students' real-world preparedness.

Questioning the Relevance of Swift in Academia

The pushback against these courses is evident in the skepticism voiced by critics who argue that delving into Taylor Swift's life and artistry serves no purpose in a higher education setting. The incredulity is palpable when considering the response from Professor Stephanie Burt, who justifies the course by asserting its relevance to the ever-evolving notions of Americanness and privilege.

However, critics dismiss this as self-righteousness, emphasizing the disconnect between professors and the practical needs of students. The question arises: should students invest their time and money in courses that offer subjective interpretations of a pop star's influence, rather than focusing on tangible skills that enhance their employability?

The introduction of courses centered around pop musicians like Taylor Swift raises concerns about the state of academia. While colleges and universities should provide students with a robust education that prepares them for the challenges of the real world, some argue that these types of courses exemplify the erosion of academic standards.

The insistence on teaching courses with questionable practical value contributes to the perception that higher education is detached from the needs of society. This issue extends beyond Taylor Swift, serving as a reminder that academia should prioritize courses that equip students with skills relevant to their future careers.

As Taylor Swift continues to dominate both the music industry and popular culture, her presence in academia prompts a critical examination of the purpose and value of higher education. While some argue that courses centered around celebrities offer a fresh and engaging perspective, others contend that such offerings dilute the quality and practicality of education.

As students gear up for a semester of dissecting Swift's lyrics and pondering her influence, it remains to be seen whether these courses will provide the knowledge and skills necessary for success beyond the classroom. The ongoing debate serves as a call for academic institutions to reevaluate their priorities and ensure that the education they offer aligns with the evolving needs of their students and society at large.

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