MTV’s “Real World,” a reality show that most members of the millennial generation are familiar with, depicts the dramatized experiences of young adult strangers thrown together as roommates. This contrived spectacle is entertaining, but not so intellectually rewarding. Fortunately for any Geneseo students craving a constructive exploration of contemporary society, XLRN 201: Real World Geneseo is offered here. In contrast with MTV’s “Real World,” this extended learning course instructed by professor and Executive Assistant to the President Becky Glass is a refreshingly honest scrutiny of the ills afflicting our current social system.
This class serves as juxtaposition to the superficial reality television culture flooding our media. Its purpose is to engage students in learning about issues of social injustice so they are empowered to go out into the world––yes, the real world––and implement positive change.
“Real World Geneseo is a multi-dimensional learning experience in which students explore diversity of all kinds and its relationship to power and privilege,” Glass said in an email interview.
The class holds seminars featuring speakers such as Director of the Livingston County Office for the Aging Kaaren Smith, who explained the country’s problem of ageism on Monday Feb. 16. Ageism, she noted, is a “hidden epidemic” beseeching social reform. She discussed the need for an improved federal system for the elderly in important arenas including medical care, financial security and abuse prevention. Through examining such societal ailments, RWG aims to raise awareness and inspire positive social transformation.
Glass described her class as threefold: a retreat, seminars and projects. She explained that these components provide the optimal experience for students. Held in Rochester over Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend, the retreat involved team-building activities designed to unite the students through trust. This allows for a safe setting where members feel comfortable talking about the provocative topics and sharing their own opinions and experiences.
At the seminar, seniors Taryn Burris and Andre Doeman shared their newfound passion concerning social responsibility. Expressing excitement for the course, they were both adamant about the significance of the retreat. They emphasized that without the retreat, the class setting would not have been as comfortable.
During the semester, students are introduced to specific problems such as ageism, gender roles, various forms of discrimination, economic class division, sexual orientation, religion and blanketing phobias including Islamophobia and homophobia. The course concludes with a service learning project for students to constructively apply their understanding.
“Real World Geneseo has won both regional and national awards for the transformative educational experience that it offers each cohort of students who participate,” Glass said.