Where can you learn Photoshop, CPR and Civil War history all in one place at a reasonable price? Continuing education offerings at local community colleges include useful courses in computer and technology fields, healthcare and safety occupations, business management and languages. General interest courses are offered in history, gardening, hobbies and include local trips and tours. In terms of offerings to the community, that’s great.

Local community colleges offer affordable, good quality educational opportunities to those students who might not be able to attend larger campuses of higher education. The average citizen would reasonably assume that since these mostly non-credit courses are offered in affiliation with the college, they are taught by qualified professionals. The Continuing Ed course catalog is distributed by the college and, as such, dons the patina of respectability associated with the school.

Every year, I receive a catalog from Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) with their educational “Opportunities”. I enjoy looking at the offerings I wish I had the time to attend.

Among the legitimate subjects, I find a subset of what I consider silly ways to spend your money. One might consider it irresponsible for a reputable college to offer some of these choices. I know I do.

Every year for the past few years, under “General Interest”, classes are offered in “Developing Your Sixth Sense” and “Ghosts 101”. Seminar sessions include the topics of “Guardian Angels”, “Dreams and their Meanings”, “Feng Shui” and “The Fascinating Realm of Fairies” (Yes. Really.) Two other course focus on mystic symbolism: a class discussing Dan Brown (DaVinci Code) and the “Secrets of Washington, D.C.” (Based on the new Dan Brown novel, The Lost Symbol.)

Silly, isn’t it? Pandering to the gullible? I think so, too.

All these courses are taught by the same person. With a tiny hope that maybe these topics are presented in a historical, non-reality-based context, I checked local sources to find out who this instructor was. She is a local psychic and ghostie. She very much believes this fantasy world to be real. An internet search on her name revealed no paranormal business associations or expertise. But, according to one skeptical local, her reputation is not glowing. Reading a past newspaper story about the “Sixth Sense” class, however, attendees are fascinated with their experience.

Therein lies the problem: the presentation of this material as one-sided, genuine and legitimate. Last I checked, psi, ghosts, angels and fairies have not been shown to exist and are unsubstantiated by science (the best method we have for discovering the way things are). We’ve been looking for decades, centuries even. No evidence ever surfaced to bring these entities into the realm of reality. They exist purely in the supernatural sense. I suppose if you wish to waste your money exploring such things for a few nights you can, but I’d rather invest in useful corporeal knowledge – like how to fly fish, knit or play piano.

Another course that HACC has offered multiple times is in the Security section geared towards private investigators and police. The title “Satanic Crime Identification and Investigation” made me gasp outright the first time I noticed it. The course description says it provides an overview of the identification and investigation of satanic crime, the satanic calendar, rituals and secret codes. Somewhat familiar with the history of false accusations made under excuse of so-called devil worship, I have so many questions; I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start with “What decade are we in?”.  According to real research, not just police stories, there are very tenuous connections between occult groups and crime. Satanic-related crimes are hyped out of proportion to the rate at which they actually occur. Being so rare, why would a private investigator need to know anything about them?

This is serious stuff. Shouldn’t there be religious experts, just as there are terrorism experts, in professional law enforcement that should be trained beyond a one-day seminar? Again, I am concerned that presenting these issues in a way that distorts reality is dangerous and could lead to wrong accusations and conclusions as made famous in the whole Satanic Panic era.

I’m getting the impression from the course description that the idea of “devil worship” is the false contemporary one, unsupported by any genuine data. The instructor is a professional P.I. so I won’t question his skills, but I do question the appropriateness of such a course considering the complexity, social attitudes and huge potential for misunderstanding. This certainly does not belong in the HACC selections on “security” or any other section.

These subjects, as presented in the course catalog, are more imaginary than real. Twice, I wrote to HACC protesting their inclusion of such courses in the catalog which gives the topics undue credibility. I even submitted a proposal for two critical thinking classes focusing on understanding science issues in the media and what science says about paranormal subjects. I received no response. The same classes reappear with the same instructors every session.

Who are these instructors? What makes them qualified to act as experts on these particular topics? The prospective student does not know and can not readily find out. This information is not available during the process of registration. However, each is instructor is listed as “Adjunct Faculty – Continuing Education” on the HACC website.

It’s not fair to the experts that teach legitimate academic subjects or skills to be in the same catalog. In presenting cheap and highly questionable offerings as “education” and in promoting superstitious and paranormal belief, the mission and reputation of HACC (and all other institutions that do the same) is tarnished.

4 thoughts on “Continuing miseducation classes

  1. Salem Community College (the Salem in Massachusetts) typically has a couple CE courses on Tarot too. (I actually took one for kicks, it was fun, but oh how serious some of the other people there were about it.)

  2. If you want to check out the damage these “experts” can do, look at what happened when (in a manner very reminiscent of the Satanic Ritual experts, who have been operating since ca. 1980, btw) a team of “experts” went to Uganda to lecture on the “gay agenda” NYtimes article


    When the CC catalog comes in the mail, I always make sure to check out the gonzo classes that offered, especially as someone who did teach a “Continuing Ed” course on paranormal topics (but at a major university, and with the point of discussing these groups as subcultures and addressing them in a historical and anthropological manner).

    1. How does the institution benefit from these courses? They seem cheap and not for credit (to bring people back).

      I think a paranormal course in the way you describe is a great idea. I took a course called “Literature of the Occult” and while it was not the best, the reading was interesting and helped me understand various cultural memes.

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