By Jared Shuff
Most people never think of fairytales as anything more than simple children’s stories told to entertain.
However, classes across the country argue that fairy tales teach people much more than not to talk to strange wolves in the woods. One class in particular at Hutchinson Community College aims to show students how fairy tales explain and impact culture.
“Intro to Cultural Studies: Fairy Tales” teaches students how to read between the lines, literally. The class uses famous fairy tales as an in-depth study guide for cultural studies, the analysis of cultural practices in relation to major systems of power. This covers topics such as class structure, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and many more.
The class, or at least a version of it, has been available since the spring of 2008. According to Ryan Diehl, the Honors Program Coordinator at HutchCC, he submitted the idea of the class to the Dean of Instruction. The dean had tasked each department to come up with three new classes in an effort to increase enrollment numbers.
“I submitted five potential courses to consider with one of those being a class in fairy tales, an idea inspired by a class one of my best friends was teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,” Diehl said.
Diehl was a full-time English instructor at the time, his first semester at HutchCC.
“I still remember how nervous I was when I hit the send button on that email suggesting the topics,” he said.
Enrollment in the class has increased substantially since it first started. Only six students were enrolled at the time.
“Since then, 577 students have enrolled in some version of the course,” Diehl said.
The class is offered for both honors and non-honors credit and is also available as an online course. It counts as a Humanities general education requirement at HutchCC and can transfer over to programs at both Wichita State and Kansas State University.
“Using fairy tales as examples, the class explores the field of cultural studies and covers the skill to help analyze so many things in the world that so often we never think about,” Diehl said.
Diehl uses Netflix as an example of how the class can change perspectives on everyday things, acknowledging how the streaming service has massively impacted our current society and culture.
The skills learned in the class are helpful no matter what profession a student is working towards.
Lilli Ward, a sophomore at HutchCC, took it as a freshman and has nothing but high praise.
“I loved the class, honestly it was one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taken,” Ward said.
Ward originally learned about the class from Diehl, who happens to teach the class for honors students. The sophomores from the year before recommended it to her as well.
For Ward, it was interesting seeing the different variations of the fairy tales, specifically how other cultures portrayed them. The many variations of Little Red Riding Hood piqued her interest the most.
“I would highly recommend it. In fact, I have,” Ward said.
That she has, as Meridith Albers, a freshman at HutchCC, names Ward as one of the many people who recommended the class to her.
“I heard from previous “Fairy Tale” takers. They all said that the class was so fun. It sounded like a really weird class to take, but they highly recommended it,” Albers said.
Albers said she didn’t know what she expected from the class. In her mind, it would just be reading fairy tales and talking about them. She had no idea how in-depth the discussions would get. This isn’t a problem for her though.
“I like it. I like getting down to the nitty-gritty of the story and all the different theories of what it could mean.” Albers said.
Out of all the fairy tales covered in the class, Albers is most excited to study Rapunzel, mainly because she knows some of the “messed up” original stories.
While “Intro to Cultural Studies: Fairy Tales” has already started for the Spring semester, students should keep it in mind for the Fall. Be ready to experience “happily ever after” like never before.