Blog and opinion
29 October 2019 • Dave van Ginhoven
Choose your own adventure
I don’t know about you, but I was pretty stoked to find out this fall that the Netherlands had been chosen for a test run of the new Disney streaming service that lets you choose what you want to watch out of a vast library of family and adventure films. Clearly Disney understood that this small, busy, highly connected and diverse country is an ideal test market. They also proved they’d done their homework on Dutch culture when they made it a free trial. What they didn’t know was that it would lead to me getting into a philosophical funk.
Once we got Disney+, my kids and I devised a plan to watch all 22 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in sequence, on family movie nights. As a lifelong comics nerd and movie buff, I was pretty excited to spend some time with certain superheroes, until another hero of mine, and then another, cast a shadow over our film festival by saying that Marvel movies are “not cinema” and even “despicable.”
I was a film major once upon a time, so you’d think I’d be accustomed to a certain amount of snobbery among cinephiles, but I was still hurt to see Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola putting down the movies my kids love. It was almost as big a disappointment as seeing Godfather III for the first time or that time Scorsese took three hours of my life to show me how much he loved cocaine in the 80s while making it look cool to scam people out of their life savings.
I wouldn’t have a meltdown about it on Twitter like some fans, but it still bugs me that people can be so tribal about what they do or don’t and that so many people feel the need to lift their tribal preferences up by putting others down.
The whole thing reminds me of something else that frustrates me. Recently, I was promoting European Studies and THUAS at a high school fair when I saw a family approaching my stand. They stopped when they were close enough to read the details on my sign and I heard one of them say “oh, never mind, it’s a university of applied sciences.”
That doesn’t happen all the time, but often enough to be upsetting. I’ve even had people realise, after expressing a lot of interest in our programme and asking a lot of questions, that we are not a “real university.” Sometimes they tell me to my face that they’re not interested in Applied Sciences. Sometimes they just walk away. This makes me almost as mad as a Martin Scorsese mobster when he doesn’t get the respect he thinks he deserves from other ‘made men’.
My goal whenever I promote our programme is not to recruit more students, but to try to get the right students to the right place. As Studiekeuze123 mentions in its advice to guidance counsellors, most drop-outs cite having chosen the wrong study as their reason for leaving. That’s why everyone at THUAS has been working so hard to encourage young people to make that choice more carefully, based on their strengths, weaknesses, interests and career goals.
But this is really hard to pull off when so many students and parents cling to the – in my view outdated and incorrect – perception that one type of university is necessarily better than the other, without really looking at what each programme has to offer or considering what type of education would suit them.
Enrolling in a theoretical study at a research university is a valid choice, but so is taking on a more career-focused and practical study. It shouldn’t be about an arbitrary idea of what’s better but about what’s better for YOU. I wish more people looked at it that way, because I suspect it would lead to fewer drop-outs, which would be better for everybody.
There’s not much we can do but try harder and do our best to help students to reflect on their interests, abilities and goals, and to encourage them to use these, and not someone else’s ideas of what’s good, as the main criteria for their choices. Otherwise, they might as well be wasting their time comparing the artistic merits of gangsters versus superheroes, and that’s just a waste of time.
But that’s just one guy talking
Dave van Ginhoven is a senior lecturer at European Studies, which he’s happy to promote to anyone who will listen. Before that he used to be a journalist and a Canadian. He loves to talk, but don’t take him too seriously. He’s only one guy.