BOSTON (CNS) -- Going out
on dates to get extra credit might sound like an easy way to boost your grade in
professor Kerry Cronin's class at Jesuit-run Boston College.
But the extra-credit
assignment is a serious attempt to help college students understand what dating
really is and the need to develop meaningful relationships in a day and age
when the "hookup culture," slang for brief sexual encounters, has become prominent
on college campuses and in society at large.
A few years ago, the
popular professor of philosophy at Boston College noticed the decreased dating
trend among her undergraduate students.
"And I thought, 'Well,
this is crazy,'" she said. "So I started asking students to go on what I refer
to as 'traditional dates' as part of an extra-credit assignment."
The Dating Project was
born and now it is the subject and title of a new documentary that
will have a one-night-only showing in 600 cinemas nationwide April 17. "The Dating
Project" website, https://www.thedatingprojectmovie.com, has information about
theaters, tickets and a trailer of the film.
The film follows Cronin
and five single people, ages 20 to 40, in their own quest to find authentic
love and meaningful relationships. Cronin's dating philosophy helps them find
more fulfilling and lasting relationships.
As a news release about
the film notes, "There is no script. There are no actors. These are real people
trying to find love and happiness in an age of swiping left or right."
When she established the
"dating for extra credit" assignment idea, Cronin said, she found that for her
students, the act of going on a date was complicated, even more than she thought
it would be. The problem? With the popularity of hookups, the culture pushes
people to have sexual intimacy very early in a relationship, according to
Cronin. Many young people are not looking for that but do not understand dating.
Add to that the major
role that social media, primarily texting, plays in communicating with one another,
leaving many young people with almost no basic skills for social interaction,
she said in an interview with Catholic News Service and other media outlets.
In other words, it's not
that young people don't want to date, they don't know how, so in 2004 she set
out to make a difference with her extra-credit assignment.
She has been giving talks
on dating and giving out dating assignments to students since then, and
hundreds of students have gone on dates and written up reflections on those
dates. She also has spoken about this topic at more than 60 universities around
the U.S. and she hears the same themes from students at those talks that she
reads in her students' reflections.
After the assignment, Cronin's students have to write
about how asking for the date was, the date itself and, finally, how they felt about
asking and going on a "traditional" date.
Cronin thinks the "social
script" for dating has been lost, having "fallen off the radar" since the late
1980s and early 1990s, "when the hookup culture took hold," she said. Other
factors that have changed the dating game include a growing party scene, young
people looking to do things in groups more than just as couples and an arrested
adolescence keeping people from making a commitment.
"The culture stepped
further along into that, and for a while, dating was running parallel with the
culture, and then dating sort of dissolved," she told the National Catholic
Register. "The hypersexualization of culture also moved sexual intimacy to the
forefront and moved courtship to the background."
Some basic rules Cronin
gives to students before they go on a date are these: The date has to be 45 to
90 minutes long with a person of legitimate romantic interest, in other words
not just a friend; the student has to pay and has to make the invitation in
person, not via email, Facebook or text message; the date cannot involve
alcohol, kissing, and sex; the date must be arranged within three days of
asking a person out; and the student must have "a definite and simple plan for
the date" and not have the other person decide what the date activity will be.
"The Dating Project" was created in partnership with Paulist
Productions, Mpower Pictures and Family Theater Productions, and is distributed
by Pure Flix and Fathom Events. Megan Harrington, who is Catholic and single,
is writer and producer.
"'The Dating Project' is
a funny, insightful, and 'must see' film for any person trying to navigate the
single life in today's culture," Jackie and Bobby Angel, authors of
"Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage," said in a testimonial
about the film.
They added: "We wish we
could share this documentary with every young person we know, so they can have
the knowledge and confidence to reclaim what dating is all about!"