When I tell friends from other colleges that I co-taught a class at Oberlin College in fall 2007, most of them don’t seem to get what I’m talking about. “A class, like a real college class for credit,” I explain to them. “As part of the Experimental College.” Then I tell them that it was about typography. “You mean, about maps?” is a frequent response. No, not about maps. Think fonts.
It’s esoteric, I guess, this interest of mine, but Oberlin is the kind of place where esoteric interests tend to flourish. When my friend Ezra and I got together and decided to teach EXCO 715: Experimental Typography, we thought we’d have a handful of students at best. Instead, we were blown away by the number of other students interested in taking the class. The process of preparing for and teaching the class has been an experience of great learning and growth for me, and I’m sure it has been for Ezra as well. In the end, it turned out to be so successful that we decided to co-teach it again. I’m sure it will turn out even better next time.
The thing is, Experimental Typography isn’t alone. Every semester Oberlin students, staff, and community members teach ExCo courses on a mind-boggling array of subjects. Interested in antiracist organizing and white privilege? Storytelling? Rock climbing? Astrology? So are your fellow students and community members! Why not take a course on it? It isn’t that Obies are just interested in learning weird things, it’s that they’re so interested in learning about everything that off-the-beaten-track topics are by all means par for the course. In fact, they’re so interested in learning that they’re teaching too. About weird things like typography. Or maps.