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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ridiculous College Courses: Majoring in Stupid

     Recent polls indicate that most Americans believe that acquiring a higher education isn't worth the time or the money. Having a college degree once meant something, and provided the graduate with at least the opportunity to get a decent job. Modern employers are not so impressed. The job market is flooded with degree holders who are unfit for the higher paying positions. That those with bachelor degrees are more informed than people without college educations is less true now than it ever was.

     On average, students in public supported colleges and universities spend $35,000 a year. (This includes room and board.) Private schools cost twice as much. This means that a four-year college education costs between $100,000 and $200,000. How many parents with more than one child can afford this? The average college graduate enters the job market owing, for his or her education alone, $25,000. They also have to pay off credit card debt, and car loans. No wonder they are so disappointed when they can't land the high-paying jobs. With the cost of higher education so high, and so many graduates unemployed or under-employed, it's no longer a given that a college education, as a business proposition, is a wise investment.
       Studies have shown that college and university services are less geared for student needs than for the needs of administrators and professors. Too many college courses reflect the interests of the people who teach them rather than the interests of the students who take them. Many courses are products of the professors' pet interests, or are designed, not for the teaching of useful and demanding subjects, but to draw students.

     One way to fill up a classroom is to create a course about sex. This is one subject college graduates are well versed in. If the professor is a historian, he can offer a course called The History of Sex. There's also the Sociology of Sex; The Philosophy of Sex; The Physiology of Sex; the Psychology of Sex; and The Politics of Sex. Some actual course titles include: Sex in Ancient Rome; The Adultery Novel; Those Sexy Victorians; The Phallus; Sex, Rugs, Salt, and Coal (I have no idea what that one is about); Purity and Porn in America; Cyberporn and Society; FemSex; God, Sex, Chocolate: Desire and the Spiritual Path; and Dirty Pictures.

     There are entire academic departments devoted to gay studies. Swarthmore students are offered a course called "Interrogating Gender: Centuries of Dramatic Cross-Dressing." At the University of South Carolina one can take a course entitled "GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identify." Not to be outdone, the University of California, Los Angeles, offers a course called "Queer Musicology." At Oberlin College, students on the hook for the $75,000 a year to go there are rewarded with a Contemporary American Studies gem called "How to Win a Beauty Pageant: Race, Gender, Culture, and U. S. National Identify." How about being stupid and in debt as a national identity? 
     Look through any college catalogue and you'll find courses on UFO's, ghosts, vampires, zombies, and witchcraft. College kids can enroll in courses devoted to the study of people such as David Becham, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Tupac, and dozens of other sports and entertainment "icons." College students today take courses called The Art of Walking; Tree Climbing; Whitewater Skills; Golf, Knitting for Noobs; Finding Dates Worth Keeping; Getting Dressed; How to Watch Television; and my favorite--Underwater Basket Weaving. (In the old days, if you were weaving baskets, you were in a mental institution. Now, you are in college.) At the University of Pennsylvania, the English Department offers a course called, "Wasting Time On The Internet." What kind of idiot needs to be taught how to waste time on the Internet? Perhaps the advanced version of this class could be called, "Wasting Time And Money On Stupid College Courses?" 
     Several universities, including Georgetown, offer courses featuring the old TV series "Star Trek." Students at the University of Texas can sigh up for a course called "Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond." Language students at the University of Wisconsin can take Elvish (a language spoken in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.) Many of these Klingon and Elvish speaking students can barely handle English.

     Physics students at Frostburg University can study the magic featured in Harry Potter books. Inquiring minds at Occidental College can earn credits by taking a course called, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie." Students at the University of Iowa can avail themselves of a course called "Elvis As Anthology." The University of California Irvine offers a course called "The Science of Superheroes."

     At Alfred University, some professor teaches a course called "Nip, Tuck, Perm, Pierce, and Tattoo: Adventures with Embodied Culture." According to the course description: "Students are encouraged to think about teeth whitening, tanning, shaving, and hair-dying." Since kids think about this stuff anyway, perhaps this professor could encourage students to think about things that are at least academic. But wait--there's more: class projects include a visit to a tattoo-and-piercing studio. (Maybe owned by the professor's spouse.) University of California Berkeley students can avail themselves of "Joy of Garbage." 
     At the University of Minnesota, if you're a numbskull who's worried about satisfying the physical science requirement, there is a course for you. It's called "Geology and Cinema" (Professors use the word "cinema" instead of "movie" because "cinema" sounds so academic.) where students sit in class and watch movies that feature geological subject matter as in "Tremors," and "Journey to the Center of the Earth." (If I were this professor, I'd include a field trip to DisneyWorld.) At Pitzer College there's a course called 'Learning from YouTube." According to the catalogue, "YouTube is a phenomenon that should be studied." (Any referred to as a "phenomenon" must be important.) At Georgia State University one can enroll in "Kanye Versus Everyone." Skidmore College offers students a course called "The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Class, Gender, and Media."

     For Ohio State students who don't know how to watch a football game, there's a course called "Sport For The Spectator." (Again, notice the word "Spectator." How many people who attend sporting events think of themselves as "spectators?") Hopefully this professor gives several lectures that deal with the technique, and meaning, of face-painting, or "facial art." Temple University has a course called "UFOs in American Society." At Brown University, the English Department proudly offers a course called, "On Being Bored." According to the class description, "This course explores (there is a lot of "exploring" in academia, it's a favorite word) texts/films that represent and formally express states of non-productivity or non-desire. Beginning with the Enlightenment and Romanic periods, we will reflect (another favorite) on narratives with neither progress or plot, characters that resist characterization, and poems that deny assertion and revelation." Who would pay good money for a boring class about boring books, movies, and poems, probably taught by a boring professor who wrote a boring book on the subject?

     For pre-law students at the University of California at Berkeley, there's "Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular Logic on TV Judge Shows." This course is of particular value to students who would rather play a judge on television than be one in real life. For students who want to be TV lawyers, I recommend the Perry Mason series. There is probably a college course around called: "The Jurisprudence of Perry Mason."

     Appalachian State University offers a history course called "What if Harry Potter is Real?" Students who take this course will "explore" questions such as "who decides what history is, and who decides how it is used or misused. How can fantasy reshape how we look at history." (I would rename this course Advanced Load of Crap.) 
     Students lucky enough to attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison can avail themselves of "Theatrical Fencing." This offering from the Department of Kinesiology provides the student with this pearl of wisdom: "Good theatrical fencing is distinct from the art of sword craft, and is worthy of study." Indeed. What value is an academic program without at least one course on theatrical sword craft? And finally, at New York University, students can earn four college credits by taking a course called "Disc Jockey: History, Culture, and Technique." (The technique part suggests a big lab fee.) Many college graduates don't know what came first, World War I or World War II, but they all know the history of the D J. At the University of Pennsylvania one can take a course called "The Feminist Critique of Christianity."
     It's no wonder that if you throw a stick in your local shopping mall you'll hit nine retail employees with college degrees. And all of them are in debt and quite a few can speak Klingon.

     In his book, The New School, University of Tennessee law professor Glenn H. Reynolds makes the case that college graduates can't find good jobs and pay off their huge debts because colleges and universities overcharge and underperform. One way to quickly improve the quality of higher education would be to replace stupid courses like the ones above. Better yet, entire academic departments should be eliminated.


  1. HAHAHA!!!weaving a basket underwater...

  2. An entertaining, extended rant. I just wish it weren't so accurate, because this makes me sad. As an employer in a technical field it is unbelievably frustrating to me that I have to waste so much time sifting through the population to find the right sort to hire. It would be hard if universities were educating only the ones actually interested in higher education -- the actual situation today is downright miserable. And yet there are still those fringe 1% or so of genuinely bright people who occasionally can be found with a degree in hand.

  3. Surely you could have found someone more credible than Glenn Reynolds to back up your assertion that college should be limited to vocational training.

  4. I completely agree with your distaste of these ridiculous, silly classes. What a waste. I'm a student myself and witness more stupidity at class than should be possible. I believe that degrees can bring success if you're smart about it. I am studying business and therefore work in the business field, and my resume is full of relevant experience. I don't expect that people working at Safeway,the Dollar Tree or Old Navy can expect much after graduating. A degree CAN boost a person's resume, but it certainly doesn't stand alone.
    Can't we learn about UFO's on our own time if we want? Schools should NOT teach junk science.

  5. Is it possible that the general consensus is that everyone should have a university degree? Obviously not everyone is bright enough to study traditional academic subjects
    but if everyone should have a college degree the entry standards have to be lowered and those admitted without the ability to undertake tertiary studiesn have to be provided with subjects which don't challenge them unduly e.g." erotica in Indian cinema" and "the Japanese geisha" These are two real courses for an undergraduate degree at a university in Australia. What we need are more tradies - they make a shed load of money, go home with no worries and have the dignity of being in employment. Unfortunately the Prime Minister/President can't boast to other leaders what percentage of school leavers are undertaking a trade certificate e.g electrician, plumber, hairdresser, carpenter etc etc

  6. Well you are just going by the titles of these classes. How about talking to people who take these classes? One could take any subject and apply rigorous training. To write a researched paper, properly footnoted and written so the reader can
    understand,is a good skill.