John Leo

Q: I can see why the university likes de-cal classes. Adult-free courses mean there's no professor to pay. But what's in it for students?

A: Well, there's no annoying teacher around, the classes are impossible to fail, they require no actual work, and if you're lucky, you get to grope your classmates for credit.

Q: Did the de-cal classes have anything to do with the nude students strolling around in downtown Berkeley last spring?

A: Yes. A policewoman told them to get dressed or get arrested, but the students explained that it was a class project for women's studies, sort of a final exam. The students were miffed that the cop wanted to interfere with an important academic exercise, but they let it go.

Q: Berkeley cops just don't understand modern education. What about all the porn-studies courses popping up at universities around the country. Are the Berkeley courses related to them?

A: Yes. Porn studies is one hottest trends in the academic world, right up there with food studies, disabilities studies and "Star Trek" analysis.

Q: Would you say that this is because the academic world is heading downscale and having a pop-culture breakdown?

A: No, though some porn studies professors believe they are a bulwark against attacks on our vibrant pop culture. Richard Burt, an English professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says that "the attack on porn studies is less an attack on the study of sex than it is on the study of popular culture." Unfortunately, his university has been interfering with his work. They made him take down his Web site showing him with a topless stripper straddling his lap. Another photo showed his wife dressed as a porn star.

A: Well, college certainly has changed. I remember when students just used to read serious books and learn how to think. If we drooled over porn, we did it on our own time.

Q: Say, how old are you, anyway?

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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