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Reality University: Where Students See What the Future Really Holds

July 23, 1999|ROY RIVENBURG

Econ 101: People frequently mistake Off-Kilter for a financial column, which may explain why we were recently invited to appear on a PBS show called "Economic Journal." Apparently the program's producers didn't realize our main advice to investors is: Sell your gold bullion and buy Silly Putty.

We realize this defies conventional wisdom, but ask yourself this: When the economy collapses, would you rather own a bunch of dumb metal bars that are useless except as doorstops or an amazing rubber compound that can bounce, stretch and make copies of the Sunday comics?

Unfortunately, we forgot to mention this investment strategy during the show, probably because we were nervous from being on TV for the first time (second time if you count "America's Most Wanted").

But we digress.

"Economic Journal" is taped at Chapman University because the show's host is school president Jim Doti. So before we did our segment (which is set to air Sept. 25 on KOCE, the PBS affiliate in Orange County), we took a tour of the campus' new law school building, which has classrooms designed to look like actual courtrooms.

In addition, Chapman's film department plans to build its own studio back lot on campus. This got us thinking about ways to make other classrooms more like their real world counterparts. For example, psychology majors could study in lecture halls with padded walls.

Theater majors would use classrooms that look like restaurants, since they'll probably spend their lives waiting tables. Medical students would do first-year rotations in classes that resemble golf courses and subsequent years in the law school's mock courts, preparing to get sued for malpractice.

Business majors would be taught in halls designed like a maze of oppressive, windowless cubicles. Archeology classes would have dirt floors--with chalkboards that have to be excavated before professors could write on them.

The political science department would operate inside a scale-model White House, complete with beret-wearing interns and a device to launch real nuclear airstrikes against rival colleges. History students would undergo hypnotic age regression so they could relive previous incarnations and experience the past firsthand.

Music majors would sit in darkened miniature concert arenas and hold up lighted matches before their teachers would deliver lessons. For added realism, they would live in dorm rooms designed like tour buses and sleep with teenage groupies recruited from local high schools. As seniors, they would be confined to simulated drug-rehab clinics and appear on VH1's "Where Are They Now?"

Belated News Bureau: We apologize for failing to mention that Monday was National Nap Day. We were really asleep at the wheel on that one.

Random Facts Department: The only U.S. manufacturer of rubber chickens is in Salt Lake City. The company has also tried marketing rubber pigs, turkeys and fish, but none sell as well.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Florida Man's Shocking Claim: 'I Was Sexually Molested by a Female Bigfoot' " (Weekly World News)

Unpaid Informants: Ann Harrison, Debra Albin-Riley, Olympia Daily World, Martin Miller. Off-Kilter's e-mail address is roy.rivenburg@latimes.com. Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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