If you could spend a year studying anything, what would you choose?


Which band is the # 1 most successful on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and topped Rolling Stone’s Greatest Artist of All Time list? What is the hit from the band “Yesterday” from 1965 which is the most cover song in history? If you know the answers to these questions, you might be interested in the one-year master’s program that the people in the photo above have just started. Based at the University of Liverpool, in the band’s hometown, it’s all about The Beatles.

What is your reaction to a program like this? Does this sound like fun? Do you like a fascinating learning experience? Or does it sound more like a waste of time and money?

In “A Year in the Life: Who Gets a Masters Degree in The Beatles?” Alex Marshall explores the program and its students. The article begins:

LIVERPOOL, England – As a new semester began on Wednesday morning, students enthusiastically marched to the University of Liverpool amphitheatres to begin classes in archeology, languages ​​and international relations.

But in Lecture Hall 5 of the university’s concrete Rendall Building, a less traditional program was set in motion: a master’s entirely devoted to the Beatles.

“How do you start an MA Beatles?” asked Holly Tessler, the American scholar who founded the course, looking at 11 enthusiastic students. One was wearing a Yoko Ono T-shirt; another had a yellow submarine tattooed on his arm.

“I thought the only way to do it, really, was with music,” she said.

Tessler then played the music video for “Penny Lane”, the Beatles’ tribute to a real Liverpool street, a short drive from the classroom.

The one-year course – “The Beatles: Music Industry and Heritage” – would focus on changing perceptions of The Beatles over the past 50 years, and how the group’s changing histories have affected business sectors like the recording industry and tourism, Tessler said in an interview. Before the classes.

For Liverpool, the group’s hometown, the association with the Beatles was worth more than $ 110 million a year, according to a 2014 study by Mike Jones, another lecturer on the course. Tourists make pilgrimages to city sites named in the band’s songs, visit places the band performed – like the Cavern Club – and pose for photos with statues of The Beatles. The group’s impact has always been economic and social, as much as a musical, Tessler said.

Throughout the course, students should stop being mere Beatles fans and start thinking about the band from new angles, she added. “No one wants or needs a degree where people sit and listen to the lyrics to ‘Rubber Soul’,” she said. “That’s what you do in the pub.”

At Wednesday’s lecture, which focused almost entirely on “Penny Lane,” Tessler encouraged students to view The Beatles as a “cultural mark,” using the terms “narrative theory” and “transmediality.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Now that you’ve read the article, what’s your reaction to a one-year graduate degree entirely dedicated to The Beatles? Did anything in the article change your initial opinion?

  • Is there a subject that you would like to spend a year studying at a university, or other formal setting, with a group of equally interested classmates? What and why?

  • Is your subject a practical subject that can lead to a career? If not, can you think of any ways you could use it in a future job or some other kind of role?

  • Considering what you might study at university, do you think you will be more motivated by preparing for a future career or by learning subjects that really interest you? In your opinion, are these paths just as respectable for a young person? Why or why not?

  • The article suggests that The Beatles and their music shaped culture and history. What other musical artists, if any, do you think deserve similar study programs? Why?

Want more write prompts? You can find all our questions in our Student opinion section. Teachers, check out this guide to find out how you can incorporate them into your classroom.

Students aged 13 and over in the US and Britain, and 16 and over elsewhere, are welcome to comment. All comments are moderated by The Learning Network staff, but remember that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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