Plato in dialogue with “The Bachelor”? Online learning has taken some surprising turns for Loyola Marymount University students.
Christopher Kaczor, professor of philosophy, has been teaching the popular “Love and Marriage” course in the LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts (BCLA) for more than 20 years. In the course, Kaczor addresses questions such as: What is happiness? How can I know if I am truly in love with someone? What should I do (or not do) to have a successful relationship? Indeed, these questions are important to most people, but especially relevant to college students as they are exploring romance, intimacy, and deeper layers of personal identity.
The course evolves to a greater or lesser extent every time Kaczor teaches it, but the recent move to online instruction has been a major change. Kaczor is one of many professors in BCLA using online platforms such as Zoom to continue synchronous teaching and learning. While the transition has been an adjustment, it has also provided Kaczor and his students with the opportunity to rethink how they can experience the course in new ways.
Jessica Saucedo ’21, a political science and journalism double major, had the creative idea to reach out on Twitter to Chris Harrison, the host of ABC’s hit romance/reality franchise “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” with an invitation to visit the “Love and Marriage” course via Zoom. Harrison quickly and happily agreed. “I think that Harrison’s schedule, like so many people’s, has been disrupted so that he had time to visit with us,” said Kaczor. “Zoom also made it easier because it cut down his travel time to zero.”
For 18 seasons, Harrison has had a front row seat to the competitive pursuit of love, and has gained insight into why some relationships bloom into happy marriages while others fizzle out quickly. During his visit to Kaczor’s class, Harrison offered his observations. “It is less about the couple’s journey on the show, and more about where they take it after the last episode,” said Harrison. “I encourage couples to resume normal life as much as possible, and to let the show enhance life without changing it.”
In addition to a surprise visit by Harrison, students are studying classics such as Aristotle and the speech by Aristophanes in Plato’s “Symposium.” The curriculum also incorporates some psychological science, as well as the works of modern philosophers including Judith Jarvis. Writing assignments and discussions offer opportunities for students to reflect on their own lives and thoughtfully engage with each other.
Reflection and dialogue have always been integral components of the course and are now lending themselves nicely to online delivery. “When we break into groups on Zoom, the groups are different every time and students converse with new people,” says Kaczor. “In the physical classroom, students sit in the same general area each class and repeatedly speak to whoever is sitting near them.”
This is an unprecedented time, and even though students are showing extraordinary resilience, Harrison’s visit was the perfect opportunity to boost morale. “I was so delighted that the students had such big smiles and were so excited about Chris Harrison visiting the class,” said Kaczor. “I hope and believe that they will remember that class session for years to come.”
For people who can’t take Kaczor’s “Love and Marriage” course, he co-authored a book with his wife, Jennifer, called “The Seven Big Myths About Marriage: What Science, Faith and Philosophy Teach Us about Love and Happiness” published by Ignatius Press that covers many of the same themes. You can also view the class session with Chris Harrison HERE.