On Campus

You got an ‘A’ in what?

From Star Trek to mail-order brides, you can get credit for anything these days

Although the student loan system can prevent you from taking less than the required number of classes, it can’t stop you from studying the bizarre. So, for those of you who are sick of calculus and literature, we’ve scoured the internet to find the strangest courses out there.

There are plenty of lists of strange courses published each year, but not every author has purely altruistic motives. Take, for example, the Young America’s Foundation list, aka the “Dirty Dozen.” The Foundation rails against what it calls “the most bizarre and troubling instances of leftist activism supplanting traditional scholarship in our nation’s colleges and universities.” They argue that these courses are an inappropriate use of resources.

“The Dirty Dozen demonstrates that professors still have an obsession with dividing people on the basis of their skin color, sexuality, and gender,” YAF spokesperson Jason Mattera comments on their website. “They also can’t seem to shake off a strong admiration for Karl Marx and his murderous ideology—apparently the 100-plus million totalitarian regimes have murdered over the years is not enough?!”

A less radical argument against strange courses is simply that universities and colleges should focus on skills training, not, say, theories behind mail-order brides. Collegedegree.com notes, “If Mom and Dad (or the bank) knew what kind of courses their savings were funding, you might be yanked out of your academic bubble and into a much more economical and practical community college.”

Nonetheless, there are many supporters of studying the bizarre, including Sayer Singleton, a first year student at the University of Oregon who thoroughly enjoyed his evolution of sex course. “It was sex,” he said. “It was exciting.”

Our Top 10 (in no particular order):

Phallus 101
The Los Angeles Times ran the headline “I got an ‘A’ in Phallus 101” on its story about the top Dirty Dozen selection. The class includes “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.”

Techno-Sex and Cyborg Babies
This class offered at the University of Oregon looks at how technology is integrating with sex, pregnancy, and birth. “This course gives students an opportunity to think about their own values and priorities around technoscience,” says assistant professor Alexandra Stotts, who teaches the course. “Just how cyborg do we want to be?”

Tightwaddery or The good life on a dollar a day
This class at Alfred University is basically a course in clipping coupons. The course description promises to help students “sharpen bargain-hunting, rip-off-detecting, and haggling skills.” On a theoretical level, the class will look at how being cheap benefits students’ lives and the environment.

Border crossings, Borderland
At first glance this course seems to be a pretty standard class on the immigration debate in the US. But the University of Washington’s angle is to study “Transnational Feminist Perspectives on Immigration.” Unfortunately, reading the course description doesn’t shed any light on what studying feminist immigration theory is all about. (I’m honestly curious!)

Mail-Order Brides
Yes, it’s true: you can spend an entire semester at John Hopkins University studying mail-order brides. Who knew?

The Evolution of Low Brow
This class at School of Interactive Arts and Technology looks at modern popular art forms that art critics doubt is legitimate art. So, in other words, students study bad art.

The American Vacation
If you can’t be on vacation, why not study it? The University of Iowa delivers a course focused on hot-dogs, theme parks, and how the five-day work week changed holidays.

Philosophy and Star Trek
Ever wondered about the nature of time travel, whether computers can think or feel, and other philosophical problems proposed by Star Trek? You need not wonder anymore! Enroll at Georgetown University. (Also don’t miss Star Trek and Religion at Indiana University.)

Finding Dates Worth Keeping
University life usually involves some fraternizing with the opposite sex. So why not get credit for it? The University of Sioux Falls thinks it has something to teach you about knowing when you’re infatuated, when to call it quits, and how to get into a lifelong relationship. “Some people may think it’s a slack course, but I think they’ll come out with something that changes their lives,” says professor Laurie Chaplin.

The Science of Harry Potter
This physics class at Frostberg State University researches whether there’s any reality behind the magic of Harry Potter. Seriously.

Are there strange courses at your university or college that are worth mention? Comment below or submit ideas by clicking “Contact Us” above.

(Hat tip to Dale Kirby for the idea.)

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