20 Bizarre College Courses
These wacky courses may be offered at a college near you.
January 25, 2013
From wacky to downright weird, colleges and universities are offering unusual courses to their students.
The pros? The interesting approaches may engage students in subjects that they may not otherwise have paid attention to expressed interest. Schools also argue that the offbeat courses breed creativity and provides different ways of looking at the usual or mundane.
Cons? Many feel these courses are just a waste of time, tuition and ultimately are flashy attempts to attract students to campus.
Feelings aside, everyone can agree that the below courses are among both the funniest and the most peculiar courses around.
1. Maple Syrup: The Real Thing, Alfred University
In case students are looking to pursue a career in the maple syrup industry, this course looks into the profession of maple syrup maker and production process as well as all aspects of the business. While in class, students actually create and taste maple syrup recipes and dishes and visit different sites in New York. Most students likely won’t become syrup tycoons, but this class gets them prepped and ready, just in case.
2. Philosophy and Star Trek, Georgetown University
This course gives students the opportunity to use class as an excuse to watch Star Trek. No joke. Then, they get to analyze it over and over again in class by applying themes to major philosophical questions that have to do with time, reality, a person’s identity and free will–all of which may or may not exist.
3. The Art of Walking, Centre College in Danville, Kentucky
You walk anyway, so why not get course credit for it? The class touches upon walking as a lost form of transportation that has fallen behind automobiles and other faster methods of transport. Students will follow lesson plans based around walking and its relation to beauty and art in the world around them.
4. Tattoos in American Popular Culture, Pitzer College
If you’re a fan of unique ink, look no further. This seminar examines American tattoo culture and its roots, exploring how the popular culture of cool ink has developed into a sub-culture over the years.
5. Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame, University of South Carolina Columbia
Fascinated with The Fame Monster? Students who’ve taken this course could pinpoint why. The focus of the course is “to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga.” For die-hard fans thinking this course is the answer to all their prayers, don’t transfer schools quite yet.
The syllabus clearly spells out that it’s “not a course in Lady Gaga but in sociology; and it is not a course about Lady Gaga as much as about the culture of the fame as exemplified by the career of Lady Gaga. There will be no PowerPoint presentations in this class nor any music or videos.” Sounds riveting. Thanks, but we’d rather attend The Monster Ball.
6. Wordplay: A Wry Plod from Babel to Scrabble, Princeton University
Do you dominate your peers when playing Words With Friends? Gain credit for playing the original word games at Princeton in this class, where students taking the course challenge each other to classic word games like Boggle and Scrabble, battling it out all semester.
7. Gossip, Cornell University
Believe it or not, this is a graduate course at Cornell, though the title may be misleading. The course focuses on the work of doctors and psychologists like Freud and Kierkegaard rather than looking at the mindless gossip published magazines like US Weekly or gossip queens like Perez Hilton.
8. How to Win a Beauty Pageant, Oberlin College
“How to Win a Beauty Pageant: Race, Gender, Culture, and U.S. National Identity,” the full title of the course, explains it a little better. The class focuses on the history of beauty pageants, beginning in the 1920s through modern day, dissecting the aspects to better understand the roles of race, gender, class, sexuality and nation, according to the syllabus. The students in the class also have the opportunity to attend a beauty pageant and apply the aspects they’ve learned throughout the course.
9. Zombies in Popular Media, Columbia College Chicago
Whether you’re a zombie fanatic or just looking to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse, this course sounds pretty amazing. Seriously, what other course can you get credit for reading zombie lit and comics, watching zombie flicks and talking about them with your buddies afterwards? It sounds like a Friday night. Get credit while you can.
10. The Joy of Garbage, Santa Clara University
This course uses garbage as a gateway to studying aspects of environmental science like decomposition, recycling, waste management, sustainability and nuclear waste. If that doesn’t get you excited, this certainly will: there are class field trips to sanitation plants and landfills. Form one line, please.
11. The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur, University of Washington
Tupac’s memory lives on through this University of Washington course which explores the late rapper and activist’s “philosophical, historical and literary influences” on modern culture. Undoubtedly, he’d like these changes, which honor his work.
12. Underwater Basket Weaving, University of California, San Diego
Believe it or not, this course is also offered at another school – Reed College in Portland, Oregon. So, for those of you who have always dreamed of learning how to create baskets out of soaking wet plant materials, there’s good news because you’ve actually got options of where to take this course for credit.
13. The Science of Superheroes, University of California at Irvine
We’re hoping this course is as cool as the title but know it’s unlikely since the lessons are all based around physics. The exciting part is that students can, at the very least, learn about physics in relation to flying like Superman, the strength of Spidey’s web in addition to other superheroes like Batman and Wonder Woman. If you have to take physics, this is definitely a super way to do it.
14. The Science of Harry Potter, Frostburg State University
Magic may not be real but students taking this course will likely find it magical. An honors course created especially for non-science majors, the lesson plan omits all lab work and ties in the whimsy of the Harry Potter series in a scientific way. Think debates over the physics of quidditch, genetic engineering to create “monsters” and if research could ever defy gravity, allowing flying broomsticks to become the new “it” method of transportation.
15. Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular ‘Logic’ on TV Judge Shows, UC Berkeley
It’s not difficult to agree with Judge Judy or other television judges, considering who they’re arguing with. Indeed, the entire course is dedicated to dissecting plaintiff logic –or lack thereof– on popular courtroom reality shows.
16. The Amazing World of Bubbles, Cal-Tech
While we wish this course was about blowing bubbles or taking bubble baths, it’s actually just about bubbles and their energy potential.
17. Street-Fighting Mathematics, MIT
Math and street-fighting typically don’t go hand-in-hand but, in this course, students learn the possibilities that movements and rhythms of fighting can be examined through mathematical patterns.
18. Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang, Oberlin Experimental College
Wannabes can embrace thug life when studying the culture and history behind the gangsta rap movement in America.
19. Circus Stunts, Triton College
If you’re looking for a serious change in careers or, perhaps, are getting really tired of your old work-out routine, this course offers lessons on the difficult acrobatic stunts well-known to circus performers. It’s definitely an interesting conversation starter.
20. Tree Climbing, Cornell
Why learn to climb a tree as a kid when you can grow up and pay a college to teach you? Clearly, you’ll be much better at it than that little boy down the street because you’re a college-level tree climber.
At the end of the day, many of these course titles are a little more than misleading. Anything that entices a student to attend class and revitalizes attention in classic subjects is a bonus in our book, as long as colleges know where to draw the line between looking at a subject in a different light versus ignoring classic subjects all together. As with most things, however, there are exceptions to every rule. If a course seems like a waste of time and money, it probably is.
What’s your opinion on schools offering wacky courses?