We asked you to share your easiest, weirdest, and most ridiculous college classes. Now, the 10 best educational experiences — including surfing, fruit, and of course, dick.
Paging through all the responses yielded some common themes in questionable education: lots of classes involved The Beatles, puppets, or the concept of "leisure." Popular "texts" included Star Trek and the Jeff Goldblum vehicle The Fly (which I actually watched in graduate school). Some courses needed little explanation, like this gem:
a) History 103- History of Surfing, UCSB
b) Pretty self explanatory
c) It was a lot easier than it should have been [ed. it should have been hard?]. We watched a lot of movies, and had some famous surfers come talk to us. I don't think the professors ever read the finals- just randomly assigned As or A minuses. The class was full of surfing bros and girls.
I spent an awesome six weeks one summer as a visiting student at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and got to take a class on Brothel Management.
Others had self-explanatory titles that revealed not excitement but crushing dullness:
I had to take a 400-level class that was not in my area of study to graduate. I put it off until my last semester, then forgot to register for anything until the last minute.
This left me with two choices: Processed Meats and History of Furniture. As alluring as the meats were, I spent a semester snoozing to slides of chairs in a dark room.
Then there were some whose titles only began to hint at the true weirdness in store:
My Alma Mater Bennington College has a long history of wacky classes. I was lucky enough to take "Cross-Species Ensemble: Human and Animal Sonics" my last term there.
It consisted entirely of improvising random sounds while listening to hugely amplified sounds made by fish, primates, alligators, birds of course, and really any other kinds of animal you can think of. This was the course description:
"Through contemporary/primitive choral chants and improvisations, this course reveals unexpected creative possibilities in our own voices. Traditional pitched singing and notation are not used, and no prior musical experience is necessary. However, trained musicians will also gain broader sonic perspective. Yogic stretching and breathing begin most sessions, after which the class learns an accessible vocabulary of sounds such as the slide, the shake, the flutter, gibberish, howling and cackling. A main focus is creative interaction with remarkable digital recordings of some 60 species, compiled by Cornell University. Live, domestic animals may be invited to certain sessions, and some instruments may be included as well. The ensemble will perform at Music Workshop periodically."
Some classes were strange by virtue of their specificity:
I was a film minor, and one semester they offered "The Coen Brothers in Context." One day the professor stood up with his roster to take roll, stared at the paper for a moment, and said, "Sometimes when I look at the title of this class I feel like I'm getting away with something."
And he was. One week we would watch a classic movie from the 40s or 50s, and then the next week we'd watch the "corresponding" Coen movie, and compare them. The connections were extremely tenuous at best. I remember an entire class revolving around whether there was any significance to the fact that The Big Lebowski was set during the Gulf War. After over an hour of this, we concluded: nah, not really.
Others were more general:
Self Esteem at California State University Fresno. It was taught by two old hippies. It fell under the curricula in the School of Education (I think it was designed for students studying to become elementary school teachers). I took it as an elective, because I heard that it was incredibly easy. Every class session, we would start out by singing, "I am special". The instructors would call out our names, and after we said, "here" or "present", they would say, "we're glad you're here" in a super sing-songy voice. Our assignments consisted of drawing mind-maps (basically-draw a picture of whatever is going through your mind). For our final, we had to pair up and teach something to the class. My partner and I demonstrated the fine art of making Rice Krispy treats. We didn't earn grades in the traditional sense; rather, we were asked to grade ourselves. Guess what? I felt that I earned an A in that class, and an A was what they entered into the system. Best class ever! It was like kindergarten, and yes, I left each class session with a happy, cozy feeling.
And others were just fucking weird:
My effete fine arts college required students to take two science classes in order to graduate, one of which had to have a laboratory component.
I opted for Visualization of Food Science, a basic diet and nutrition course that apparently fulfilled the laboratory requirement by taking place in a computer lab. Our assignments consisted of taking the most elementary aspects of nutrition science ("Vitamins = Good!") and incorporating them into PSA-style posters created in Photoshop and Illustrator. My oeuvre consisted mainly of happy, dancing fruits and vegetables imploring their audiences to "Eat me," or some variation therein.
It was the first "A" I'd received in a science class since junior high.
Some of the most involved stories concerned courses that seemed legit but turned out to be decidedly not, like this study-abroad offering:
The course: History and Culture of the Adriatic Basin. An official Yale University Summer Session overseas course. Location: Hvar, Croatia. M-F, 9-12 AM, 5 weeks, 2 credits (equivalent of two standard Yale classes). Co-taught by three professors/lecturers, all from Croatia/Bosnia, currently teaching at Yale. Official course description was appropriately sober sounding: "Byzantine"; "schism"; "Ottoman"; "genocide"; "post-Yugoslav"; etc. Optional lessons in Croatian language.
What we got: what is now known on the facebook group our class made as "Our Two-Credit Croatian Vacation." Wake up; go to class (or not) (one full week of the five weeks of classes was "Bosnian Movie Week" and involved nothing but watching Bosnian movies); finish class by 10:30; have the chefs serve lunch; go buy beer at the local supermarket; take it to the beach; get drunk at the beach; come home; go buy more beer; have the chefs serve dinner; go out to one of a small number of nightclubs and get/stay drunk/watch World Cup while doing same. Every day for five weeks. We stopped taking Croatian classes once we knew the words for "Thank you," "water," and "beer." [...] no matter—we all got As. (And two credits worth of As! REALLY helped on my law school application!) That fall, word got around and the entire baseball team showed up at the organizing-professor's normally sparsely-attended "The Balkans in Film" seminar. I guess Yale found out and he no longer teaches the course. Whoopsie!
Or this one, in which astronomy apparently met performance art:
Course name: Intro to the Universe/ Augusta State University in Ga.
What it was supposed to be about: It was an intro level Astronomy class. It seemed like it would be simple enough. I thought I would study stuff like stars, comets and moon phases, but no, oh no, it was much more than that.
Basically, this class met twice a week for two hours, plus there was a lab that took up two hours once a week. From day one I knew it was going to be special. The teacher walks in and promptly tells the class he is a Dentist in his "real life," [ed. like Orly Taitz?] but studies stars for fun. Then, he proceeded to show us a power point of pictures he took while he and his wife vacationed in the mountains. There was a picture of them kissing. Under a waterfall. With no stars or educational merits in sight.
The class just got weirder. We never did written work, we just listened to him. The labs were online so we didn't have to go to lab, either. He just lectured, which would be normal enough if it didn't include his awesome "hands-on class participations." These "participations" included him picking some poor soul out of class and making then rotate around them, arms stretched out, as he yelled, "Now, you're the moon! I'm a star! No, wait! I'm the sun and you're a star! I think..." At one point we all had to stand up and rotate like the planets. Oh, and the tests were questions we answered online, got the answers for, and then he copy and pasted onto paper word-for-word.
All in all, it was an easy A class, which was good because my lab group developed a knack for coming to that class drunk.
But the best, for sheer brevity of title combined with ability to stir up actual controversy, was this one:
I was required to take the somewhat notorious class "The Phallus" at Occidental College as my junior seminar. It made the "Top 25 Strangest College Courses" and was ranked the number one in "The Dirty Dozen: America's Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses." All you have to do is google the class name and Occidental to find how fascinating, repulsive or ridiculous critics found the class.
As for me, I'll just say the class was boring. Critical theory from 7-10 PM on a Wednesday night? Freud, Lacan, Horney, Butler...ugh. On the plus side, I got to write my final paper on the phallic symbolism in Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1977 film Pumping Iron, which was highly entertaining!
Google does, indeed, turn up a number of fun hits on this class, which analyzes "the relation between the phallus and the penis, the meaning of the phallus, phallologocentrism, the lesbian phallus, the Jewish phallus, the Latino phallus, and the relation of the phallus and fetishism." Charlotte Allen claims the class reveals everything that's wrong with American higher education today, while its instructor, Prof. Jeffrey Tobin, defends its academic merit: "Because the phallus is not anatomical, my class will not be comparing the genitalia of men belonging to different ethnic groups or cultures. Rather, we will study how masculinity varies from culture to culture." Asks Allen, "Why not take a course in 'The Phallus'? You can get the same credit for it as for a course in Greek tragedy." Maybe, but if "The Phallus" requires an essay on Arnold Schwarzenegger's dick, I'd rather take Processed Meats.
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