Dickson: Who goes to summer school?

May 16, 2024, 11:00 AM | Updated: 11:33 am

Students walk at the University of Utah...

Students walk on the campus of the University of Utah. (Amanda Dickson/KSL NewsRadio)

(Amanda Dickson/KSL NewsRadio)

You may have heard the quote from Peter De Vries: “We all learn by experience, but some of us have to go to summer school.”

I started teaching summer classes at the University of Utah this week. I wasn’t sure who I’d see when I got to class. I mean — who takes a media law class in the summer? Aren’t you supposed to be hiking somewhere?

Summer school: Not what I expected

What I found were classrooms filled with college students. Some are just starting their college careers and will be sophomores in the fall. Some are so near graduation they’ve already walked with the Class of 2024. All of them are impressive for their dedication and ability to focus.

I asked my students what brings them to campus when the sun is shining on a glorious Utah day. Here are a few of the responses I got:

“I work full time. I just can’t take 18 credit hours a semester like some students can. If I don’t take classes in the summer, I feel like I fall behind.”

“I have a family — three kids. I’m a millennial who actually owns a home. This is the way I get it done.”

“I’ve just always taken a couple classes in the summer. I feel like I don’t lose my momentum that way.”

It’s the tuition, stupid!

One student told me he’s taking my class this summer because of the in-state tuition. I didn’t ask the obvious follow-up question — what do you mean? 

So, I Googled it.

Turns out, out-of-state students get a break in the summer. All students, whether they’re from Utah or not, pay in-state tuition in the summer.

That makes sense. So, my students who moved here from California and elsewhere, drawn by their love of snowboarding on the greatest snow on earth, stay to take classes in the summer and save serious money.

My pledge

Students wear shorts to class in the summer. Then again, they wear shorts to class in the winter, too. I pledge that I will not be wearing shorts to school in the summer or any other time.

More importantly, I pledge to my students of all ages and stages in their careers to make this experience as enjoyable as possible. I’m probably not unlike most teachers in that I feel like my subject is the most interesting.

I love teaching about the effect of media on our society — on our relationships, culture, health, truth, and every other facet. I love teaching about argument — how understanding another person’s arguments is key to understanding our own. We’ve been teaching public speaking classes for a century, but only now we are beginning to teach how to listen critically.

And I love love love teaching media law. Some of the most exciting and interesting debates in our nation’s history took place in the Supreme Court chambers on the topic of free speech, including this year. We talk about what the 1st Amendment protects and where it is not relevant. We talk about cases in history like the Pentagon Papers case, and we talk about the Biden administration trying to persuade social media companies to take down certain posts during the height of the COVID pandemic.

We can’t avoid talking about former President Donald Trump. There are more cases with his name in the title in our textbook than any other single individual. I make sure my students understand – this is not political. It just so happens that the former president sues, and is sued, more than the average person. 

Read more from Amanda Dickson: A salute to Utah women

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Dickson: Who goes to summer school?