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.

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.

Oberlin administrators said that the class might have a provocative title, but that it was nothing out of the ordinary.

"I'm not sure whether, beyond the provocative title, whether this course is truly 'out there,'" said Sean Decatur, dean of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin. "From my understanding, this is a class that is teaching students to critically engage in topics of identity around sexuality, nationality, disability ... [issues] that are not only part of the larger public discourse, but that people are engaged in on many college campuses and within the broader society as well."


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."

A couple of the questions to be considered are:

"I. Is time travel possible? Could we go back and kill our grandmothers? What is the nature of time?
II. Could reality be radically different from what "we" (I?) think? Could we be brains in vats?"

AP/Paramount Television

Radical Thought from Karl Marx to George Bush

For $40,000 a year, you can go to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York and take a class on radicals ranging from Karl Marx to George Bush.

"This course examines left and right radical thought of the past 150 years," which means students will be reading both Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and conservative writer William Kristol.



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.

Eric Sieger, Director of Media & Public Relations at Carleton, said the class, which requires an instructor's approval, is relatively new -- and with an annual tuition of $40,000, FemSex costs about $4,500 to take.

"The course is basically a study in the history and culture of the female sexuality perspective," Sieger said.


Harry Potter Lit

Can't get enough of the popular series? In this $814 class at Ohio State University you'll "examine the literary techniques and cultural roots of the novels, exploring such themes as the quest, coming of age, and the nature of heroism."

Students, who are expected to "read all seven books," will also consider the books as "reflections of contemporary attitudes towards religion, rule-breaking, power, race, class, gender, education, sports, celebrity, and so on."

AP/Warner Bros.

Video Game Studies

If you need a break from math at MIT, "Introduction to Videogame Studies" might appeal to you.

"Students play and analyze videogames while reading current research and theory," reads the course description, which says students are expected to beat the games too, "in consultation with the instructor."

Annual tuition at MIT is almost $40,000, which works out to around $4,500 per class.

AP/Electronic Arts

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.

Holton said Cornell requires physical education, and many students prefer his tree-climbing course to alternatives including bowling or skeet shooting.

"The highlight of our local class is an overnight in the trees," he said. "We also go to Costa Rica for climbing in the jungle."


Maple Syrup

At Alfred University in New York, you can now learn how to make maple syrup for $1500.

"This class will explore the history of maple syrup production, discover the ins and outs of making syrup, create (and eat) some sweet confections, and take field trips to local producers, restaurants and festivals," the course description reads.

"No prior experience expected."



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.

"Students who are interested in logic, argument, TV, and American popular culture will probably be interested in this course," reads the class description.


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.

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