THE GUT COURSE RULES

, Deborah Lambert, Leave a comment

For students who whine and moan about the stress from their course overload, there are some ways to lighten up. Jillian Interlichia reports on “My Dog Ate My Blog” that students who want to catch a break from the grind have only to sign up for one of these crazy courses:

1. Underwater Basket Weaving:  This is not a joke, it actually exists. In fact, “this stereotypical blow-off class is actually offered at Reed College during a week-long learning festival called Paideia.  The class teaches the traditional Inuit method of soaking reeds before weaving them into baskets.

“Other colleges have taken a more literal approach, with basket weaving courses taught underwater with the aid of SCUBA(Rutgers University)or snorkeling gear (University of Arizona).

2. “Tolkien’s Elvish: A professor at the University of Wisconsin is the world expert in the language J.R.R. Tolkien created for his classic Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Professor David Salo even acted as an advisor on the language during the filming of the blockbuster movies. Other colleges offer crazy language courses too – the University of Texas offers a course in Klingon, for example.  Too bad they probably don’t fulfill your language requirement.

3.“The American Vacation:  Students at the University of Iowa enjoy their vacations away from school just as much as the next college student, and maybe a little more. The Department of American Studies offers a course covering the cultural implications of the American Vacation.  Students have yet to report on whether going to class to listen to lectures about vacation are just as good as the real spring break.

4. “The Science of Superheroes:  Unfortunately, this isn’t a course on how to acquire super powers and fight crime yourself, but students at the University of California, Irvine, do get to learn physics in a more hero-worthy context.  The course discusses the physics of the feats seen in comic books, from flying to super-strong spider silk, some with real-world applications. Maybe this is one physics course you won’t fall asleep in.

5. “Far Side Entomology:  What professor doesn’t have a Far Side cartoon or two posted on his/her office door? One professor at Oregon State University took this love for the zany cartoon and created an actual college course.

Due to Gary Larson’s predilection for combining insects and humans in humorous situations, “Far Side Entomology” became a popular course, teaching the connection between humans and a huge variety of beneficial and harmful insects.

6. “Cyberporn and Society: We’ve all heard the joke about how the internet is only used to look up porn and check e-mail, and this college course from the University of Buffalo takes a deep look at the subject.  Pornography was certainly a driving force in developing internet technologies as well as changing human behavior, and serious discussion was emphasized during the course – if not in the internet reports about the class.

7. “The Simpsons and Philosophy:  This course may have originated as a blow-off class for the professor, but the University of California at Berkeley marketed “The Simpsons and Philosophy” as a serious discussion of the deeper meaning behind the cartoon family.  Whether or not you bought into the hidden layers of the Simpsons, at least studying meant you could park in front of the television.”
8. “In a Galaxy (and Classroom) Far, Far Away. . .

Yes, science fiction tends to be the realm of nerds, nerds who go on to become tenured professors.  So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the most popular science fiction movies – Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix – have all made their way into the classroom.  A number of colleges have offered classes looking at the development of these fictional worlds, like “Star Trek and Religion” from the University of Indiana.

9. “Tree Climbing:  Ever get called “immature?”  Ever want to drop all your college courses and return to being a 6-year-old?  Cornell University’s Tree Climbing course is perfect for you!  This is another course meant to get less athletic students their physical education credits, but since the class always fills up, we’re hoping it’s not all athletic rock climbers on the roster.

10. “How to Watch Television:  Students at Montclair University probably think they’ve died and gone to slacker heaven when they see this class in the course bulletins.  This elective is mainly for broadcasting majors, but is open to non-majors as well, and aims to critically evaluate the role of television in modern culture and how to more effectively reach viewers.  No news on whether or not homework involves vegging out on the couch.

11. “Getting Dressed:  Presumably Princeton students are the cream of the crop and should be able to dress themselves, but this course might suggest otherwise. The course is actually about how culture affects fashion and fads, but the jokes basically write themselves.

12. “The Art of Walking: This may sound like the epitome of college fluff, but . . .it’s actually a class dealing with Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Judgment.” The class involves a mix of lectures and walks around the Danville, Kentucky area, including strolls through ‘nature preserves, battlefields, cemeteries, the nearby Shaker village, campuses and farms.’ Students are given freelance walking assignments in addition to more traditional college work like reading and term papers.”

* * * *

We’re not done with these off-the-wall courses yet.

It seems that a University of South Carolina sociology professor named Mathieu Deflem has decided to teach a course called “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.”

The course description notes that “The central objective is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga.

“Professor DeFlem, 48, who has met the singer, real name Stefani Germanotta, on a number of occasions, said: ‘We’re going to look at Lady Gaga as a social event.  Other people say that Gaga’s the new Madonna. I see it more like there’s people who have this very individual thing.  Frank Zappa had it. Prince had it. Miles Davis had it. And Lady Gaga has it.”

* * *

- Deborah Lambert

Deborah Lambert writes the Squeaky Chalk column for Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org