Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 23rd, 2008
My enjoyable visit and interactive lecture to the class at the University of Maine at Orono requires a photographic and informative followup.
I visited the campus on February 20, 2008, and previewed that upcoming lecture here.
No Sasquatch were sighted but approximately 50 students, three instructors, and I had a good time exchanging ideas and thoughts.
A majority of the students were open-minded to Bigfoot, with a good sampling of anthropology and zoology students dotting the audience, even a few baseball players too (I’m very pro-baseball), and certainly some intelligent skeptics, as well. Indeed, a wonderful instructive time was had by all, so please allow me to share a few things about the visit and the course being taught.
I learned more about the use of Skeptical Inquirer articles and other materials that are the building blocks in the classes. Using the course’s books and the skeptical articles, the students are required to write four research papers a semester, each of which has to go through three or more drafts and edits.
The level of interest in this specific entry-level approach to this English course, taught in two separate classes using Bigfoot books, even caused one instructor from another English class who uses more classic texts, to attend my presentation. Several students stayed long beyond the lecture, the Q & A session, and the regular ending time of the classes to talk to me about cryptozoology, writing, and Bigfoot.
Here are some post-slide-lecture photographs snapped during that end-time:
This group of engaging students examined the hair samples and other items I brought with me from my museum. In a break from what I often find, as far as gender-specific sorting that occurs at conferences, the one male student pictured here was an open-minded communicative skeptic, and the young women, including one who was a zoology major, were open to the existence of Sasquatch. Bigfoot conferences are often attended by a majority of male pro-Sasquatch advocates.
Dick Klyver’s bronze of the Bigfoot in the Patterson-Gimlin footage is visible in the foreground. The sculpture and other artistic representations of Sasquatch were shared, along with other cultural items and classic slides, with the combined classes.
Instructor Michelle Allen, a native of Michigan, often takes the skeptical point of view during her presentations in her class. She and Nick Mohlmann sometimes appear in each other’s classes to engage in a Mulder-Scully, pro- vs con-, interaction about Bigfoot.
Instructor Nick Mohlmann, a native of Virginia, and I ham it up with the formal end-of-the-day “handshake.”
Nick responses to recent inquiries and challenges from Cryptomundians about the skeptical components of the course:
I’m one of the instructors of the course.
That two of the books must have different points of view is a requirement of the university and one that we address in different ways.
In [one] case, students will read Mr. Redfern’s book in order to consider the possibility of a paranormal explanation for Bigfoot and other such phenomena.
The critical thinking aspect is present throughout the course, even if the students are reading two pro-Bigfoot books. The course is primarily a writing course and the students learn how to write argumentative papers. On any given topic, there are multiple positions they can take.
Some of my skeptical students cite passages from Loren’s book and Dr. Meldrum’s book and offer counter-arguments to those positions. Students who take a pro-Bigfoot position will use similar material to support their arguments. The students are completely free to argue whichever side they prefer and I’ve been seeing some interesting arguments both for and against.
As Loren mentioned [earlier], we’ve recognized the need to supply the students with information from a skeptical view point both to be fair and to provide citable sources to augment skeptical arguments.
While the topical content of the course is Bigfoot, our goal is that by the end of the semester the students will have honed their skills at assessing arguments and recognizing the ways in which people use language to support their beliefs (skeptical or otherwise). These skills will not only help students make more informed decisions in our media-driven society, they will help the students articulate and support their beliefs in an effective manner (whatever those beliefs may be.)
I’m sorry if my [earlier cited] e-mail wasn’t more clear. At the time I didn’t want to bore Loren with the minutiae of running a first year composition course.
We chose the topic because we figured the students would enjoy it and so far they have. They couldn’t stop talking about Loren’s presentation today in class. Even the skeptical students enjoyed it and found it quite informative. Thanks again, Loren! Nick Mohlmann, February 22, 2008.
Upcoming free slide-lectures in March: Monday, March 3, at 6:00 pm at the Belfast Free Library, Belfast, Maine, and Wednesday, March 6, at the Brown Bag Lecture, noontime, Portland Public Library, Portland, Maine.