College class tackles the realities of Fatherhood 101

Published: Monday, June 17 2013 2:13 p.m. MDT

The University of Arizona is packing a classroom with men and women who want to know about fatherhood in various cultures. It's part research, part how-to, taught by a husband-wife team.

Netzin Steklis is a lecturer and primate researcher. Dieter Steklis is a psychology professor and anthropologist. And their class, called "Men, Fatherhood and Families: A Biocultural Perspective," ranges from "mating and attraction as a step toward fatherhood to how expectations of fathers have changed over time and vary by culture," as an article in USA Today put it.

"This is not a 'How-to-be-a-dad' or 'Be-a-parent-101'", Netzin Steklis told the newspaper. Her husband added: "We're trying to understand whether what we're doing here in Western countries is very different or whether there are universal themes in human behavior."

After three summers of packing the large classrooms, the university hopes to take the class national, perhaps through a MOOC (massive open online course), which is a popular trend that uses the Internet to greatly broaden a course's reach.

Fathers — and the act of being a father — have been getting more attention and discussion. A Deseret News story recently highlighted some of the research on what a good father gives to his children.

A couple of years ago, USA Today's Kurt Wagner wondered why more universities don't offer preparation for fatherhood. "College students," he wrote, "can study virtually anything these days."

To prove his point, he cited a college course on real maple syrup and another devoted to "looking at animals."

"Most universities have tended to see their central purpose as preparing students to be effective professionals and citizens rather than readying students for their private lives," Chad Raphael, Communications Department chairman at Santa Clara University, told Wagner. "We teach all sorts of practical knowledge and skills, but we're reluctant to focus that teaching entirely on what students will do in their family lives."

Wagner and others have also noted that, historically, most parenting classes are targeted to mothering and mothers.

EMAIL: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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