Students at Centre College come to expect the extraordinary, even when taking a course about the most ordinary of things — walking.
Stodghill Professor of French and German Ken Keffer has taught The Art of Walking at Centre for over a decade, and it has once again captivated the nation by landing the fourth spot on the New York Times’ list “10 Courses With a Twist.” Keffer’s class is featured alongside other unconventional courses offered at places like Harvard, Princeton and Cornell, among others, based on the buzz these courses have created “according to campus newspapers, higher education experts and enrollment numbers.”
Art of Walking has received media attention in the past, earning spots on “Coolest College Class” lists and a mention on JEOPARDY!, but it’s not about the popularity of the class for Keffer. It’s simply the course he feels he “has to teach.”
When Centre redesigned the curriculum in 2002 to include CentreTerm, the three-week term between traditional semesters that allows for intensive study on a specific subject, professors had the chance to design a course they had always wanted to teach. Keffer knew right away that for him that course had to be about walking.
“I immediately knew that the thing we needed to all have in common was a willingness, a readiness and an admiration for walking,” he explains.
Although Keffer and his students have been walking since 2002, it is never on quite the same path. Outside of Centre’s campus, he has taught the class as part of Centre’s Study Abroad program in England, France and Germany — every few years adding a new philosophical twist. At one point the course was primarily about searching for the beauty in nature, drawing heavily from the writings of Immanuel Kant. More recently the course has been highly influenced by the works of Martin Heidegger, which for Keffer means looking at walking as a way of “thinking about our being in the world in an everyday way.”
The New York Times article reveals Keffer’s newest take on the course: this fall he will offer a semester-long class subtitled “Flight from Boredom.”
“The reason people don’t walk is because it just takes too long,” says Keffer, “and what takes too long is boring. But I’ve always thought if you can be happy walking, if you can make peace with boredom, you’ve got it made.”
Keffer’s certain the class will have plenty of time to find out you can’t be bored walking, and his hope is to share with students his readiness to walk.
Read the New York Times article about the ten quirkiest classes in the nation.
by Caitlan Cole