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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 09/18/2009

THE LIST: College Courses I Want to Take

By Valerie Strauss

Sometimes I daydream about returning to college and enrolling only in courses that I really want to take. I looked through on-line catalogs and designed an academic load that includes math, music, chemistry, writing, space exploration, history and physical education. All of these courses are being offered this fall at colleges and universities.

REAL-LIFE STATISTICS: YOUR CHANCE FOR HAPPINESS (OR MISERY), General Education, Harvard University

Being somewhat math-challenged, I don’t know how I would handle the statistics, but the happy/misery part sounds intriguing.

Course description: Discover an appreciation of statistical principles and reasoning via "Real-Life Modules" that can make you rich or poor (financial investments), loved or lonely (on-line dating), healthy or ill (clinical trials), satisfied or frustrated (chocolate/wine tasting) and more. Designed for those for whom this may be their only statistics course or those who want to be inspired to learn more from a subject that can intimately affect their chance for happiness (or misery) in life. Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Quantitative Reasoning.


CHOCOLATE TEMPERING & MAKING, Baking and Pastry Arts, Vancouver Community College

Who would not want to know how to do this?

Course description: Learn the various tempering techniques and modern methods to make a variety of chocolate pralines. Make figurines using animal, flower, and seasonal molds to make a variety of chocolates including mocha, marzipan, raspberry, hazelnut and orange using Belgian chocolate. Recipes included.


INTRODUCTION TO VIDEOGAME STUDIES, Comparative Media Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Not only would I get to read about videogames but I could play them too:

Course description: Introduction to the interdisciplinary study of commercial videogames as texts through an examination of their cultural, educational, and social functions in contemporary settings. Students play and analyze videogames while reading current research and theory from a variety of sources in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and industry. The expectation is that students will play through to completion a contemporary commercial videogame chosen in consultation with the instructor.
There’s a graduate version too.

STUPIDITY, Critical Theory and Social Justice, Occidental College

I think I am too stupid to understand the following description of this course given at the school where President Obama once attended, but it sounds like fun anyway.

Course description: Stupidity is neither ignorance nor organicity, but rather, a corollary of knowing and an element of normalcy, the double of intelligence rather than its opposite. It is an artifact of our nature as finite beings and one of the most powerful determinants of human destiny. Stupidity is always the name of the Other, and it is the sign of the feminine. This course in Critical Psychology follows the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, and most recently, Avital Ronell, in a philosophical examination of those operations and technologies that we conduct in order to render ourselves uncomprehending. This course examines stupidity.”

To prepare for my career as an astronaut, I had hoped take SPACECRAFT NAVIGATION at the California Institute of Technology, but, alas, it is not being offered this semester. However, there is a fine substitute:

SPACE NAVIGATION, Department of Astronautics, U.S. Air Force Academy

Course description: Inertial navigation including studies of the accelerometers and gyroscopes used in strapdown platforms, system mechanization, navigation equation development and system error analysis. Non-inertial navigation including studies of Global Positioning System (GPS), star trackers, and other position, velocity, and attitude sensors. Aided navigation methods using least squares and optimal estimation techniques. Projects include simulation of solid state optical gyros, and development of an aided navigation algorithm.

WRITING THE SITUATION COMEDY, Television, Columbia College Chicago

Reality television has, unfortunately, taken over the airwaves, but who can resist a great sitcom?

Course description: This advanced level scriptwriting class teaches the skills needed to write the most popular form in television today, the situation comedy. The class will require the students to write two half-hour comedies, one based on an existing prime-time television series, the other based on an original pilot concept. The scripts will be read and reviewed, step by step, in a classic "writer’s table" story conference procedure. In addition, there will be lectures on the writing of both the established sitcom as well as the original pilot episode.

CULT ARCHAEOLOGY: FANTASTIC FRAUDS AND MEANINGFUL MYTHS OF THE PAST, Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University

Any course that discusses the Mummy’s Curse is irresistible, especially to someone who wanted to be an archaeologist when she was young.

Course Description: The pyramids and Stonehenge built by aliens? The power of the Mummy’s Curse? These myths couldn’t be true--or could they? Cult Archaeology examines popular and fantastic interpretations of archaeological remains presented in the press and popular media. This course finds the logical flaws in pseudoscientific explanations and the biases that underlie them. Discover the “truth” about archaeology!

TREE CLIMBING, Physical Education, Cornell University
Students can earn physical education credit for this course. For real.

Course description: Whether you are a rain forest canopy researcher, an arborist, or just a kid at heart, everyone loves to climb trees. Recall the excitement and sense of adventure when you first crawled into the branches to look inside a bird’s nest. Then you swung from limb to limb without a thought of ropes and harnesses. But what about that big tree down the street you always wanted to climb, but couldn’t reach the first branch? This course will teach you how to use ropes and technical climbing gear to reach the top of any tree, to move around, and even to climb from tree to tree without returning to the ground. All equipment is included in the course fee.

And then, once I had my bachelor’s degree, I’d hop over to England to get a masters degree in...THE BEATLES at Liverpool Hope University.

It is a newly created program, said to be the first of its kind in the world, aimed at examining, says the university website, “the significance of the music of the Beatles in the construction of identities, audiences, ethnicities and industries, and localities; by doing so it will suggest ways to understand popular music as a social practice, focusing attention on issues such as the role of music in the construction of regional identities, concepts of authenticity, aesthetics, meaning, value, performance, and the use of popular music as a discursive evocation of place.”

Then I would come home and play the new videogame "THE BEATLES: ROCK BAND," eat chocolate and gaze at the stars. And I'm pretty sure all of that would make me happy.

READERS: What classes or subjects would you want to pursue if you could go back to college? Or go there for the first time? And let The Answer Sheet know of other great courses out there.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 18, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Tags:  college courses, the list  
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