Thursday, May 6, 2010

UFOs 101

Not to be inhospitable or crankier than usual, but I don't know why so many members of the world press went bonkers over Philip Haseley, the Niagara County College anthropology professor (and MUFON representative) who recently stated that the UFO subject should be taught at the university level. I mean, I'm glad he received solid publicity and said what he said, but my question is for the media: Didn't those folks know that both credit and non-credit college UFO courses have been around for years?

The late Dr. J. Allen Hynek, former Air Force UFO consultant, taught students about UFOs for credit, as do Dr. David M. Jacobs and other professors. The late and somewhat under-appreciated (re his UFO research) Dr. Harley Rutledge also comes immediately to mind, and we're just talking about the U.S. collegiate scene. Even Prof. Haseley reminds us that such courses have existed, and of course his main point is that the UFO involves scientific study fit for a college classroom.

As mentioned in an early blog post here, I began teaching several sessions of a non-credit introductory UFO course at a college in 1976, eventually wrote about it for the magazine, Argosy UFO, and received lots of mail -- a significant amount of it from people looking for guidance to teach their own college classes on the subject. One of them, Christopher Centi, an investigator for the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), developed a popular course at Jamestown (NY) Community College which received fair news coverage following its inception in 1977.

Back in the early 1960s, to my knowledge, there was hardly a college or university in the U.S. that would acknowledge the UFO subject as anything more than myth and legend. I suppose the emergence of the Socorro, New Mexico case helped to steer academia credibility in the right direction in 1964 -- but I also contend we're lucky that actor-comedian Jimmy Durante, in the twilight of his years, didn't blow the nation's serious interest all to hell in 1964 when his novelty song, "We're Going UFO-ing" hit the nation's AM music airwaves! (Yes, you can find it easily on YouTube and other places.)

We wish Professor Haseley much success as he embarks upon teaching his own UFO course -- for college credit, we assume -- because the need is there. But for every college professor willing to offer legitimate UFO information, there are probably 10 or more colleague-debunkers waiting in the wings, ready to annihilate his or her reputation without so much as a glance at the facts.

(Pictured: Newspaper headlines re the OCC and JCC courses, a snippet from an OCC newspaper ad re my UFO course, and my course topic list as it appeared in an issue of Argosy UFO when I wrote about the classes.)