Friday, January 15, 2010

Are clown colleges accredited?

Q: Can you get a real, accredited degree from a clown college?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
This image comes from the Ohio College of Clowning Arts. Blame them.

A: What, like a Bachelor's in Clowning? Well, yes, actually. But not in the United States.

See, most clown schools, like San Francisco's Clown Conservatory, offer certificates. The original Clown College, run by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, was even less official - it was more or less a training ground for that circus, and has since been closed down and replaced by an audition process. And regular universities, including even Florida State and Illinois State, which have circus programs, do not offer Clowning or Circus Arts as majors.

But for one brief, shining moment, the Clown Conservatory partnered with the New College of California's Experimental Performance Institute to offer accredited degrees in Clowning. According to graduate Cynthia Rauschert's bio, four individuals received degrees from the program in August of 2007. One of those four was Aji Slater, whose resume (PDF format) describes the degree as a Bachelor's with emphasis in Theatrical Clowning. The other two? One must be Suzanne Santos, who has a Master's in Clowning from EPI. The other may be Fae Kievman, who mentions a Bachelor's in, uh, "Humanities/Theater/Circus/Clowning" from the New College of California
Ceci Velasco, who also got a Master's in Experimental Performance and Theatrical Clowning (thanks for the correction!).

So what happened after those four graduated? In what must be a complete coincidence, the New College of California's accreditation was revoked the following year, and the entire college soon shut down. Actually, the college had already been put on probation the previous month (one of many warnings in the school's history) by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which accredits schools in California, Hawaii, and various places in the Pacific. And in August of 2007, the school's President had resigned after considering a million-dollar bribe to change a student's grades (he claims he didn't actually change them). Things were not looking up for the New College of California, clowning program or no.

What did the WASC find when they returned to check up on the wayward school? It's all in this report from the SFist: massive problems with finance, record-keeping, and oversight; arbitrary grading; excessive independent study; oh, and "Establishment of a degree program that did not meet WASC standards and was not reviewed and approved appropriately within the college." So . . . there's that. But as damning for the clowning program as this sounds, there's no guarantee the report wasn't referring to the graduate program in Women's Spirituality, for example:

The New College Women's Spirituality Master of Arts weekend program is the San Francisco-based, accredited advanced degree for women who find themselves at a pivotal "crossroad" in their lives where they feel life should have more purpose and meaning. The program content and group experience often helps students find direction, self-confidence and authenticity. The curriculum is taught by supportive, diverse, leading practitioners in this field. The program promotes intellectual and creative expression; explores and integrates global and historic intellectual, social, artistic and spiritual aspects of womanhood; and prepares graduates to help transform society after first transforming themselves.
 "Often helps students find direction, self-confidence and authenticity." Keep in mind this is for a graduate degree. Compare with Dartmouth's Women's Studies program:

The Women's and Gender Studies Program gives students a theoretical base for a systematic analysis of the construction of gender and the historical, economic, political, social, and cultural experiences of women. It is an interdisciplinary program drawing on resources from the Social Sciences, the Humanities, and the Sciences.
So there's that.

Anyway, long story short, you can't get a clowning degree in the United States. So where's a career-minded clown to go? A sensible plan would be to grab a Master's in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from Dell'Arte - it's like a Circus Arts degree, but more legitimate-sounding. But if you just have to have "clown" or "circus" in your degree, here are three places you can go:

  • The University of Haifa, where you can get a dual-major degree in medical clowning. Think Patch Adams, but without the Scientology-esque attitude towards psychiatric medication.
  • The National Institute of Circus Arts in Australia, which offers a Bachelor of Circus Arts degree as well as a graduate certificate.
  • The University of Lyons 2, where you can now get a vocational degree in clowning.
 Now, I leave you with one final thought:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

1 comment:

  1. "According to graduate Cynthia Rauschert..."?
    I'm Cynthia Rauschert. Who are you?