Zombie preparedness training heads from pop culture to campus

If you weren't convinced by the Centers for Disease Control's announcement last summer that, not to worry, there was no imminent zombie apocalypse on the horizon, you'd be bolstered in your thinking the attempt at allaying fears was limp if you ran across the Zombie Scholars Academy.

Considering that the weeklong academy (zombie.truman.edu/admission/) is actually going to be hosted this July by a real university in Kirksville, Mo., this idea of zombies representing a major threat to society as we know it actually has (wobbly) legs.

The deadline for admissions applications has been extended to April 1, which is likely a mere coincidence having nothing to do with the other occasion usually marked on April 1, that of the Fool's Day.

The original deadline was March 1, but not enough suitable, highly qualified applicants had expressed interest to fill all the 50 available slots for summer scholars, so extending the deadline was the right thing to do so that the study of all things zombie might be extended to the full complement of seats set aside for this learning experience on campus.

You have to still be in the junior high through high school set to participate, so that wipes out a huge swath of zombie enthusiasts who have graduated from high school and moved on to other academic pursuits and beyond, but the word can be spread by the older crowd to help the younger ones along.

The planners at Truman State University actually have hit on a useful way to get kids interested in the basic subjects that form the foundation of most college curricula, by hitching it to a phenomenon that has a huge following with TV shows.

The website for the Zombie Scholars Academy says the experience is "a unique academic program that takes the unprecedented interest young people have in the thrilling — and often humorous — fiction of a zombie apocalypse and turns that energy into a fantastic vehicle for learning about some of society's most pressing needs."

The objective is to "put students in an environment where every activity, every class discussion, and every action they take during the day is viewed in light of questions that begin with 'What if .?,' " according to the promotional material.

What if:

  • All electricity were cut off?
  • Your cell phones and web-based devices were now useless to you?
  • Refrigeration was no longer available?
  • Water purification had failed?
  • Transportation was no longer useable?
  • And neither the military nor the police were available to protect you from the dangers of the world?

Would you:

  • Panic?
  • Work with others to find solutions to everyday challenges?

In other words, here's a way to get our future national leaders thinking about questions that are "as pertinent to people facing the aftermath of a hurricane or earthquake as they are to survivors running from a horde of the undead."

There will be math and engineering problem-solving sessions, study of theory and themes in literature and popular culture, physical exercise to prepare the mind and body for instant reaction and general fitness in case of sudden disaster, outdoor survival skills training, and the 7th WMD Civil Support Team — a unit from the Army National Guard — walking student scholars through the procedures experts use when dealing with a real nuclear, chemical or biological incident.

Or, even, the zombie plague.

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