Principles of Organic and Biochemistry? Yawn! English Literature 101? An outdated snooze-fest! Differential Equations? That one is just begging to be skipped! Now that college students have the option to take classes on everything from zombies to garbage, gone are the days of choosing between Art History 1 and Art History 2 to round out a schedule. If society’s next great thinkers don’t have extensive knowledge of the literary canon, it might be because they were busy learning what soap operas say about gender roles. Here are some of the wackiest college courses—a few of which have us hankering to go back to school.
Underwater Basket Weaving
Once the fictional name given to college classes that required minimal participation in exchange for credits, Underwater Basket Weaving is now an actual class offered at University of California, San Diego, as well as at Rutgers. It stands to reason that this recreational class, in which students submerge grasses or wicker in water and then braid it together into baskets, is meant to get students to relax after they’ve spent a long week actually going to college.
Philosophy and Star Trek
“Star Trek is very philosophical.” This is the matter-of-fact statement that leads the course description of PHIL-180, Philosophy and Star Trek, at Georgetown University. The undergraduate course is advertised as an introduction to basic philosophical tenets surrounding metaphysics and epistemology, and Star Trek is the context for grappling with the existential imponderables that arise. In other words, without Star Trek, you’re never going to get a bunch of hungover freshmen to show up and care about Kierkegaard.
The Joy of Garbage
It might serve our society well if this course, offered at Santa Clara University, was required around the country rather than simply being a whimsically named elective at one California school. Instructor Virginia Matzek does not let her students shy away from what she calls “the yuck factor,” taking them to sewage treatment centers and landfills and any other place that deals with the business end of what we throw away. In this age of countless environmental controversies and problems, the more people who know about the way our waste is processed, the better off we all might be.
Daytime Serials: Family & Social Roles
This course is offered in the Women’s Studies program at the University of Wisconsin. It compares daytime programming with prime-time dramas in order to examine the way themes of gender are portrayed and how those portrayals affect women and men in our culture. It’s fair to suspect that despite the subject, this class has more than Soap Opera Digest on the syllabus. If you think soap operas are just about amnesia, twisted love affairs between long-lost fraternal twins, and made-up medical procedures that frequently resurrect “dead” characters, think again. Daytime television actually serves as insight into gender roles.
Zombies in Popular Media
Zombies are the new vampires, you know. Columbia College in Chicago is capitalizing on the zombie’s rising star power with this course that examines the undead’s history and importance in fantasy and horror texts. But don’t think you’re getting off easy with this one. The course description advertises an “intense schedule” of critical theory and source media. For the record, “source media” includes movies and comic books.
Myth & Science Fiction: Star Wars, The Matrix, and Lord of the Rings
Almost everyone knows that these wildly popular epic trilogies are all based on mythologies that have been around since the dawn of time. At Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, instructor Lee Patterson leads a workshop that explores classic epic storytelling using these contemporary examples instead of restricting himself to Virgil or Homer like some professors might. This is all a long way of saying, “Dorks of the world, come on out of your mom’s basement—it’s the college class you’ve been waiting for!”
Maple Syrup: The Real Thing
This educational gem is offered as part of the honors program at Alfred University in New York, the same institution that brought you such courses as Purity and Porn in America, Hannibal Lecter’s Book Club, and Tightwaddery: Living the Good Life on a Dollar a Day, among other highly entertaining class options. The course description is pithily introduced as a job listing: “Wanted: Someone with a background in meteorology, chemistry, botany, forestry, art, and cookery who is also a nature lover with lots of patience. Must enjoy long hours of hard work in the snow, cold, and mud.” It then goes on to invite students to experience the joys of learning the process of syrup-making and its storied history. Interesting? Perhaps. Honors program worthy? That’s debatable.
Photo source: Digital Sextant (cc)