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The 15 oddest college courses in the D.C. region

Nominees keep rolling in. So, here is a newly expanded list of the 15 most unusual courses offered at colleges in the Washington region. "Odd" does not necessarily connote "bad"; some of these classes actually sound rather rigorous, and I'm sure none is an easy A.

1. Introduction to Arboriculture. Montgomery College. This course teaches students, literally, how to climb a tree. From the description: "Hands-on course teaches the skills and techniques necessary to access the upper parts of large trees; safety when working in and around large trees; and the proper selection, use, and maintenance of equipment used in the arboriculture profession." And this warning: "The course is physical in nature."

2. Hallucinating. Georgetown University. The course description asks: "How can we be sure that we're not mistaken about everything? What kinds of things can we know for sure? What is knowledge anyway?"

3. War and Dancing: Strange Bedfellows. Goucher College. From the course description: "Through select readings, video observations and movement sessions, students learn how music and dance became both cultural metaphors for -- and critical responses to -- the effects of war on American soldiers and civilians from 1776, 1812 and the Civil War, to the World Wars, to the War in Vietnam."

4. Restorative Art I. University of the District of Columbia. This course, offered within UDC's Mortuary Science program, teaches students a lesson from the "Six Feet Under" playbook. Description: "An introduction to the physiognomy, surface bones of the cranium and face, modeling techniques, head shapes, facial profiles, structures of the ear, nose, mouth, and eyes."

5. How to Win the Tour de France. Marymount University. Offered to freshmen interested in the health sciences, this course "explores the dynamic and sometimes dark world of elite cycling through the eyes of a Tour de France athlete and coach. Topics include modern training techniques and scientific principles, nutritional considerations, the business and technology of the sport, and drugs." If the university were to offer a companion class, How Not to Win the Tour de France, any number of cycling luminaries might be tapped as instructors: Disqualified tour leaders Floyd Landis or Michael Rasmussen. Or, for a course titled How to Almost Win the Tour de France, perennial also-rans Jan Ullrich or Joseba Beloki.)

6. Banned and Dangerous Art. University of Mary Washington. This freshman seminar examines banned music, dangerous poets and degenerate art.

7. Lies and Secrets. Marymount University. From the course description: "Explores social and moral questions surrounding lies and secrets, with special emphasis upon Washington, D.C. When, if ever, is it morally permissible to lie? Is it always wrong to make someone's secret public knowledge? And do government officials have a special obligation to be open with the public about political and personal affairs?"

8. Ancient Egypt: Sex/Drugs/Rock. Johns Hopkins University. This seminar "explores sexuality and the role played by mood altering substances in the Egyptian New Kingdom."

9. Sustainable Living: Raising Chickens at Home. Anne Arundel Community College. Here is the description for this noncredit course: "Enjoy farm fresh eggs from your backyard. Learn about zoning requirements, breed selection, chicken coop design, caring for chicks and general health maintenance."

10. Understanding Baby Boomers. American University. The title of this course treats Boomers as if they were of another era. . . which, I guess, they were. From the description: "This course journeys through the years of idealism, tumult, and conflict experienced by the baby boomers, allowing students to explore the social and cultural changes that took place during this period. Students become better acquainted with themselves, their parents, and America through this course."

11. Field School in Material Culture. College of William and Mary. In this cryptically named elective course, students at the largely smoke-free college plant, grow and harvest tobacco as a matter of Virginia history.

12. Philosophy and Time Travel. University of Maryland. Students in this summer course study the paradoxes of travel through time but are not permitted to fast-forward to fall.

13. Community Performance for Peace, Conflict, and Dialogue. Goucher College. The ultimate touchy-feely course, from Goucher's Peace Studies program. Description: "The course surveys the history, the theory, and the exemplary practitioners of community performance -- synonymously called 'theatre for social change' or 'applied theatre.'"

14. Vampires: Their Historical Significance in Literature, Film, and Pop Culture. Gallaudet University. From the description: "This course will examine the phenomenon of Vampirism in verbal and visual culture from various historical periods and from both Eastern and Western cultures including Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Russia, Serbia, France, England, Sweden, and the United States." A pop-culture counterpoint to the University of Baltimore course on zombies.

15. The Male Experience. Frostburg State University. "Examination from a gender-sensitive perspective of factors affecting the development of male behavior in American society." An easy A for dudes?

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By Daniel de Vise  |  September 16, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Pedagogy , Students  | Tags: odd college classes, oddest college courses, strange college classes, strangest college courses, zombie college course  
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Sounds like Universities are picking up a thing or two from the news business: bold, splashy headlines.

"Banned and Dangerous Art" prompts kids to sign up looking for cheap thrills and instead get a crash course on the nature of art.

"Ancient Egypt: Sex/Drugs/Rock," for a course that in my distant era would have just been called "Ancient Egypt"

Lies and Secrets. Marymount University, which is a great name for course. Once enrolled you quickly become trapped inside an arcane ethics class.

Hallucinating. Georgetown University. or Philosophy 101: shadow hunting in caves.

Understanding Baby Boomers. American University. I would have called this course: 101 Reasons to Blame Baby Boomers for Absolutely Everything.

Sustainable Living: Raising Chickens at Home versus buying eggs at Safeway? Sounds darn useful.

Posted by: smoke111 | September 16, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Tree climbing is pretty important for any business or other endeavor which deals with the health of large trees. We have a 60 year-old pin oak in our back yard that needs work. It has many dead branches and limbs in the upper part of the tree, caused by lenthy periods of drought in recent years. Anyone who works on such a tree, or supervises others who do, needs to have or know tree climbing skills.

Some of the others look like they are offered to students who want to raise their GPA's.

Posted by: esch | September 16, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

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