By Connor Keating / Staff writer
“Humanities” is a word that can send shivers down the spines of many college students.
When students complain about taking humanities classes, the two that often pop up are music appreciation and art appreciation. These two classes are often taken to fill the humanities credit that’s required in order to graduate for many majors, but what if there was another option? A more interesting and exciting class that fills the humanities credit.
Hutchinson Community College history professor Tom Percy has been teaching a unique class since his arrival in 1994 called World War II Film History. A class where students watch films, learn about the history of the films, and discuss them with the class.
“There was an old class here about film history of World War II, but it was more World War II and they only showed about five films. So when I came here in 1994, I was allowed to teach that class so I completely changed the class around,” Percy said. “I decided to change it to emphasize more the films and the history of the films, than the history of the war.”
The class covers 15 different films, all from different times and from various genres. The films chosen also help show the views of America at the times they were made.
“The goal of the class is to gain an appreciation of how films reflect American society at the time,” Percy said. “The course itself is divided into three primary areas. So the first third of the course we watch films before American involvement in the war and how those films change, then the second third is films that were actually done during the war, and then the third part of the films are about World War II that were made after 1945. I do try to give a wide variety of films. I do try to do not all combat films, so there’s dramatic films, there’s even a comedy, there’s a musical, we do some combat films, and I try to deal with the homefront as well as different relationships in terms of foreign policies, the holocaust, try to kind of fit as much as I can in, to give a whole gambit of films.”
In between films, Percy provides lectures that help set the stage, and give context around the film. What the view of the war was at the time, what was going on in Hollywood, and the United States government’s influence over some of the films.
“It’s three days a week, on Mondays I usually give a lecture, a little bit of background of what we’re going through in class and what that particular film (is), the background of it,” Percy said. “What the studios were doing at that particular time. The Wednesdays are a lab where you watch the film. And then the Fridays are when we discuss the film, usually students have a small reading as well as watching the film to come in and discuss the film.”
Percy also said that towards the end of the semester, students must watch two World War II films that are similar, but from different time periods and do a presentation over them. However, students are able to pick what films they cover.
So I like the idea that students get to kind of choose their own films to watch in addition to the films in class,” Percy said.
Most students who take the class have nothing but positive things to say.
“It was very interesting and informative,” said Katie Kolb, a Nickerson sophomore. “I enjoyed watching the movies of course. Percy made everything easy and interesting to understand. Definitely a top three (class).”
Percy said it will be offered in spring of 2024, and is usually 12:40 p.m. to 1:40 p.m on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However Wednesdays run longer, depending on the length of the film.
“Hopefully get a nice group of people out. The discussions are always lively and we choose some classic films that people probably heard of and some obscure films as well,” Percy said.