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SCHOOL DAYS : Tricks for the Trades

January 30, 1994|Alan Rider

In these troubled economic times, people will do just about anything to improve their marketability and job security, even if it means pulling a rabbit out of a hat. University extension programs from Fullerton to San Diego are jampacked with folks hoping to add a little magic to their careers.

"We have a schoolteacher, a lawyer, a Ph.D physicist, an engineer, salespeople, a doctor," says Brad Burt, a professional magician who teaches an extension class at San Diego State. "It's an amazing range of people all wanting to learn magic for different reasons."

A few students have had a lifelong fascination with sleight of hand and want little more from the class than the ability to amaze and amuse. But a surprising number of hocus-pocus hopefuls are dedicating one night a week and spending $155 for each of the program's three separate courses because they believe they might gain a competitive edge.

"A lot of salespeople use magic because it's a nice opener for a sales presentation," Burt explains. "And the effect of an awful lot of tricks can also become a metaphor for some point the salesman wants to make."

Deanna Clark, a San Diego special education teacher, plans to take the tricks and techniques right into the classroom.

"A lot of times you need quick attention-getters and some of the card tricks would be good lesson starters," Clark says. "It's not as boring as just saying, 'OK everybody, let's open up your books to page 43.' "

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