Backstory: Proteus University, where Plato meets Play-Doh

Just imagine sitting in a cybercafe with your wireless laptop. You're sipping a latte, checking your e-mail, downloading tunes to your iPod, beaming digital photos to a friend across the cafe – and taking a college course.

Proteus University combines two of the hot new trends of the 21st century: multitasking and distance learning. Our cybercampus reaches around the globe, so you can take college courses anytime, anyplace.

And you do it all digitally, without ever setting foot on our bricks-and-mortar campus in quaint Princeton, Nev. Even more important, you can study more than one book or play at a time – and two or more subjects at once – thanks to our Cross-Curricular-Multi-Platform-Media-Modifier software.

Our cybercurriculum covers the centuries-long cavalcade of content providers, from Shakespeare and Dickens to Grisham and Clancy. For example:

A Man for All Four Seasons: The noted play about Sir Thomas More is accompanied by Vivaldi's renowned orchestral work, spiced with vocals by the Frankie Valli doo-wop quartet.

Guess Who's Coming to My Dinner with André Previn: A young woman's parents are shocked to learn that her male guest is of another ethnic background, but they are delightfully surprised when the mealtime conversation is sophisticated, intellectual, and entertaining – and complemented by the lush musical stylings of André Previn.

In Cool Blood: Truman Capote's chilling tale of murder, synchronized to the subtly swinging sounds of Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, and other giants of the 1950s "cool jazz" scene.

The House of Stuart Little Women: Your study of the British royal family is enhanced by E.B. White's charming children's story and a classic novel by Louisa May Alcott.

A Midsummer Night's Dream a Little Dream of Me: The mischievous fairie Puck sows mischief among love-struck couples as the Mamas and the Papas provide a musical interlude.

I Am the Greatest Generation X: A biography of Muhammad Ali and a sociological study that venerates the generation that fought World War II and excoriates their grandchildren.

The Tao Te Bling: Pursue simplicity, serenity, and detachment from worldly concerns by becoming one with the Tao – "the way" – as you wear heavy gold jewelry.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Around Us: Jules Verne's prescient novel of undersea adventure sets the stage for Rachel Carson's striking account of mankind's pollution of the oceans.

On the Road Less Traveled: Jack Kerouac and M. Scott Peck are your guides to higher states of awareness.

The Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf: Edward Albee's landmark play, accompanied by the band that created the rock opera Tommy.

Plato and Play-Doh: Classic ancient philosophy learned while massaging children's clay.

Swiss Family Robinson Caruso: Study of a shipwrecked family that listens to operatic tenors.

Coming next semester:
The Marilyn Monroe Doctrine
2001: A Space Odyssey and Iliad
Alexander the Great Wall of China Syndrome

Dale Roberts, a college career counselor, lives in Asheville, N.C.

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