Preparing for College

Wackiest College Courses

As a parent who, with my wife, saw (and paid for) two kids' college educations, I can certainly appreciate the financial struggles families have faced and are facing, especially these days, coming up with education funding. That's why I was both amused and irritated by this news story that appeared nationally yesterday:

Oddball 101: The 11 Wackiest College Courses of Fall 2009

Think you've heard it all about out-of-touch academics? Here are some new courses that you don't see at most schools, from the politically charged to fun classes about pop culture: As an overview, to pique your interest (or disgust), here are the names of some of those 11 courses highlighted in the article. I'll include a few words from the sometimes hard to believe narratives that accompany each one.

Queer Mobilities

Want to try out this new course at Oberlin College? For a hefty $4,950 you'll get to examine why "only citizens ... 'get' to claim queerness, whereas undocumented immigrants are always presumed to be heteronormative."

In other words, you'll study why people "always" assume that illegal immigrants are straight.

Philosophy of Star Trek

At Georgetown University, you can learn philosophy through the lens of Star Trek for $4,827.

"Star Trek is very philosophical," the course description reads. "What better way, then, to learn philosophy, than to watch Star Trek, read philosophy, and hash it all out in class? That's the plan."


No -- it's not a pornography site, but rather an independent study course at Carleton College that stands for "Female Sexuality." The Carleton Gender and Sexuality department bills it on their Web site as "The class ... you've been waiting to take!"

Assigned homework readings range from "I'm not fat, I'm Latina" and "Myth of the black butt" to "How to have energy orgasms" and plenty of other titles that we can't print here.

Tree Climbing

At Cornell University, you can fulfill your physical education requirement by taking tree climbing for $700.

"Students are excited," said Professor Mark Holton, who teaches the class. "We have never offered a tree climbing class that has not filled to capacity. We learn how to climb into large trees -- ones where you cannot reach the first branch. We also teach how to move around, go from tree to tree, and come back down safely using ropes and harnesses and various kinds of tree climbing tools.


You might be stupid yourself to dish out nearly $5,000 for this oldie but goodie that has been taught a Los Angeles' Occidental College for years. The course description is hard to beat, saying stupidity "makes itself felt in political life ranging from the presidency to Beavis and Butthead."

"Stupidity is neither ignorance nor organicity," the description reads -- and if you can understand that, you probably won't end up being dissected in the course.

It costs $39,000 a year to attend Occidental, or about $4,875 per class.


"What is it about the idea of a zombie that is so deeply unsettling," asks a $638.25 course on offer in the English department at Ole Miss.

In the class, "The Living and the Un-Dead," students will watch zombie films, read zombie books and write a zombie research paper -- which could leave zonked out college kids pulling all-nighters feeling pretty sympathetic to the living dead.

Arguing With Judge Judy

Students at Berkeley can learn about the crazy and compelling arguments used on television judge shows in "Arguing with Judge Judy," a rhetoric class that costs about $1,080.


So, Moms and Dads, what do you think? I think it might be a good idea for you to keep an eye on those grade reports (assuming, of course, that your child's school's privacy policy permits you to have access to your kid's grades!) to see just what courses your hard-earned tuition dollars are paying for. Something's out of kilter here. Big time.

Don't forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.