Skeptical Bigfootry in the Classroom

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 23rd, 2008

My enjoyable visit and interactive lecture to the class at the University of Maine at Orono requires a photographic and informative followup.

I visited the campus on February 20, 2008, and previewed that upcoming lecture here.

No Sasquatch were sighted but approximately 50 students, three instructors, and I had a good time exchanging ideas and thoughts.

A majority of the students were open-minded to Bigfoot, with a good sampling of anthropology and zoology students dotting the audience, even a few baseball players too (I’m very pro-baseball), and certainly some intelligent skeptics, as well. Indeed, a wonderful instructive time was had by all, so please allow me to share a few things about the visit and the course being taught.

I learned more about the use of Skeptical Inquirer articles and other materials that are the building blocks in the classes. Using the course’s books and the skeptical articles, the students are required to write four research papers a semester, each of which has to go through three or more drafts and edits.

The level of interest in this specific entry-level approach to this English course, taught in two separate classes using Bigfoot books, even caused one instructor from another English class who uses more classic texts, to attend my presentation. Several students stayed long beyond the lecture, the Q & A session, and the regular ending time of the classes to talk to me about cryptozoology, writing, and Bigfoot.

Here are some post-slide-lecture photographs snapped during that end-time:

Bigfoot in the Classroom Photos

This group of engaging students examined the hair samples and other items I brought with me from my museum. In a break from what I often find, as far as gender-specific sorting that occurs at conferences, the one male student pictured here was an open-minded communicative skeptic, and the young women, including one who was a zoology major, were open to the existence of Sasquatch. Bigfoot conferences are often attended by a majority of male pro-Sasquatch advocates.

Dick Klyver’s bronze of the Bigfoot in the Patterson-Gimlin footage is visible in the foreground. The sculpture and other artistic representations of Sasquatch were shared, along with other cultural items and classic slides, with the combined classes.

Bigfoot in the Classroom Photos

Instructor Michelle Allen, a native of Michigan, often takes the skeptical point of view during her presentations in her class. She and Nick Mohlmann sometimes appear in each other’s classes to engage in a Mulder-Scully, pro- vs con-, interaction about Bigfoot.

Bigfoot in the Classroom Photos

Instructor Nick Mohlmann, a native of Virginia, and I ham it up with the formal end-of-the-day “handshake.”

Nick responses to recent inquiries and challenges from Cryptomundians about the skeptical components of the course:

I’m one of the instructors of the course.

That two of the books must have different points of view is a requirement of the university and one that we address in different ways.

In [one] case, students will read Mr. Redfern’s book in order to consider the possibility of a paranormal explanation for Bigfoot and other such phenomena.

The critical thinking aspect is present throughout the course, even if the students are reading two pro-Bigfoot books. The course is primarily a writing course and the students learn how to write argumentative papers. On any given topic, there are multiple positions they can take.

Some of my skeptical students cite passages from Loren’s book and Dr. Meldrum’s book and offer counter-arguments to those positions. Students who take a pro-Bigfoot position will use similar material to support their arguments. The students are completely free to argue whichever side they prefer and I’ve been seeing some interesting arguments both for and against.

As Loren mentioned [earlier], we’ve recognized the need to supply the students with information from a skeptical view point both to be fair and to provide citable sources to augment skeptical arguments.

While the topical content of the course is Bigfoot, our goal is that by the end of the semester the students will have honed their skills at assessing arguments and recognizing the ways in which people use language to support their beliefs (skeptical or otherwise). These skills will not only help students make more informed decisions in our media-driven society, they will help the students articulate and support their beliefs in an effective manner (whatever those beliefs may be.)

I’m sorry if my [earlier cited] e-mail wasn’t more clear. At the time I didn’t want to bore Loren with the minutiae of running a first year composition course.

We chose the topic because we figured the students would enjoy it and so far they have. They couldn’t stop talking about Loren’s presentation today in class. Even the skeptical students enjoyed it and found it quite informative. Thanks again, Loren! Nick Mohlmann, February 22, 2008.

Upcoming free slide-lectures in March: Monday, March 3, at 6:00 pm at the Belfast Free Library, Belfast, Maine, and Wednesday, March 6, at the Brown Bag Lecture, noontime, Portland Public Library, Portland, Maine.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

3 Responses to “Skeptical Bigfootry in the Classroom”

  1. Scarfe responds:

    Excellent. I also teach a composition course of sorts that deals with critical thinking, so I can appreciate this kind of class.

  2. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Congrats on your lecture Loren.

    But next time you take a photo, you should ask people to take a “Patty” stance in front of the camera 😉

  3. mystery_man responds:

    I teach biology myself and have always wanted to work cryptozoology into my classes somehow, but I haven’t done such a thing yet since it doesn’t always really fit in with the curriculum of the courses offered and I’m not quite sure how appropriate the school would find it in a “serious science course”. Sigh. I think this English course is a great idea, but I would also love to see more courses geared towards biology or anthropology that seriously deal with cryptids in a scientific context as well.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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