The course with the Force: training Jedi style

September 11, 2008

An open learning programme at Queen's University Belfast will feature a course on "How to train in the Jedi way".

The university believes it is the first in the UK to offer a course in Jedi - so many people described themselves as followers of the characters in the blockbuster Star Wars movies in the 2001 UK census that Jedi Knight was included in the list of religions.

"Battle your dark side; fear and aggression," says the course blurb. "Begin your own hero-quest. Lightsabers not provided."

The course, to be held in November, will feature dialogue and clips from the films. But the university admits that it is an exercise in marketing the open-learning programme rather than a serious attempt to study duels on the Death Star.

Course tutor Allen Baird said: "I'm really using Star Wars to get people interested in lifelong learning, and make it unscary and fun."

Those expecting to learn Jedi mind tricks may be disappointed, but Dr Baird sees a solid academic psychology underpinning the Star Wars films that can be used for personal development.

Film-maker George Lucas was strongly influenced by Joseph Campbell, professor of comparative mythology and religion. Jedis are expected to master flow and mindfulness, which Dr Baird said were researched techniques enabling people to be fully immersed in a task, and to keep control of their thoughts and behaviour.

"The Jedi can use telepathy. I can't teach that, but I can teach interpersonal skills, empathy, understanding another person's mind and how to control fear and anger, the whole 'dark side' thing," he said.

Dr Baird describes himself as "a mild science-fiction fan" who collected Star Wars figurines when a boy. "But I've grown out of that."

Those looking for an even greater challenge than acquiring the skills of a Jedi Knight can sign up for a ten-week course, "So you want to be President?", which will use post-war American elections to reveal the best way to get to the White House.

olga.wojtas@tsleducation.com.

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