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5 odd college courses you can actually take

By Brandon Ferdig, Contributing writer
Published On: Sep 12 2011 12:45:03 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 13 2011 11:55:03 PM CDT
college classroom lecture hall

iStock/VM

Fall is here, and the most ubiquitous thing (besides maybe football) with this time of year is going back to school.

Stop and think. What do you picture when you imagine schools and college? Maybe it's children in colorful classrooms or high-schoolers at their lockers. If you imagine a campus, perhaps you visualize young adults being lectured on thoughtful topics in art and literature or learning complicated science and engineering. Higher learning, right?

Well, it's not all stuffy stuff at these universities.

Seems like they can decorate anything in 50-cent words and offer it for course credit. As such, these classes may strike you as a bit weird, out of place, or hey, maybe you dig 'em. After all, we all have an opinion on topics such as pro-wrestling and Lady Gaga, right? Well, so do the profs at these schools, teaching these classes.

Our first such course is literally garbage ...

garbage dump trash

No. 5: The Joy of Garbage - Santa Clara University

Running counter to most American's ideas of garbage as being just plain "icky," this class asks students to take a serious second look. After all, we mostly just chuck it and move on.

But a few sittings in this class will get you seeing the light. Though stinky and smelly, garbage is super-relevant ... and prevalent.

Where does it all go? And can we turn it into a useful commodity? Let's see ... we could: No. 1: Pile it all up to make replica pyramids. No. 2: Use it to create islands in the sea in case global warming steals all our land. No. 3: Recycle it. Hmmmm.

Heck, there's even a cultural component to this class: how different countries handle their garbage; and can we work together to solve the waste problem.

See? The "joy of garbage" is that it brings us all together.

Of course, so do board games, as our next course shows ...

Scrabble board game tiles
No. 4: Scrabble - University of California, Berkeley

Yes, scrabble.

First, we gotta say one thing: this class is offered as a student-led, professor-sponsored course. So it's not an upper-level class by any stretch. And Berkeley, (yes, that Berkeley) has a bunch of these in an arena of courses for which students get to take the lead.

Sound like a pretty cool, grass-roots method to learning. But still! Playing scrabble twice a week for math credit? There better be a "Q-U-I-N-C-E" or a "P-Y-X" on those boards.

Every college has its own fluff classes. Turns out that, at Berkeley, they like to use theirs to reinforce the age-old wisdom that school is used for three things: knowing them "three Rs."

And, hey, if your "'rithmetic" is a bit lacking, no matter. The better to not decipher your enormous tuition bill.

Next up, would you consider taking Gaga 101?

Lady Gaga, 2011 Grammy Awards

No. 3: Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame - University of South Carolina

Celebrities, on top of being lightning rods for gossip and advertising, can also be focal points for learning -- especially about, well, being a celebrity. And Lady Gaga represents the most dramatic rise to stardom in recent history, making her an excellent point-person.

In this University of South Carolina sociology class studying stardom, you get to ask, "Why does everyone care about what Lady Gaga does?"

No, seriously. Break it down a little: she has two albums with a few hit songs. That may be a dream for most people, but doesn't explain the attention she gets as many, many other pop singers can sport freshman album breakthroughs. (Remember Natalie Imbruglia?)

So while it might seem redundant to pay yet more attention to this fame monster, let alone in the entirely new setting of academia, it is a conversation that might be worth having.

Our next odd college course is a walk in the park ...


pedestrians walking across the street

No. 2: The Art of Walking - Centre College

You do gotta hand it to them -- for two reasons. First, when's the last time you paid attention to the way you walked? And two, think of something you do more of?

Call it the most applicable class ever. (Unless, they have one on breathing, which they just might.) And perhaps it's a great unifier, a course that can bring people from a variety of disciplines together for a stroll. Aww.

Actually, at Centre College in Danville, Ky., this is a philosophy class -- another thing everyone can jive with. And the walking, it turns out, is more of a complementary activity, allowing the various settings visited -- a park, a cemetery, what have you -- to stimulate thought and discussion.

Hmmm, on second thought, maybe it's all a diversion, a way to get otherwise sedentary philosophy loafs up off their derrieres and on their feet.

Last up, if you're wrestling with your course schedule, consider this class ...

Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant in Wrestlemania III

No. 1: American Pro Wrestling - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Elitists like to look down their noses at professional wrestling fandom, but at the upper-echelon college of MIT, they heed a bit more respect.

In "Topics in Comparative Media: American Pro Wrestling," they see it as a useful tool for examining masculine role models and also looking at the increasing aspect of drama into the wrestling productions.

There has been an evolution, hasn't there? The stars have gone from merely hefty to ridiculously ripped; and the story lines have gotten increasingly exaggerated and involved. Everything always has to be more. It's all kind of a neat polarization of stereotypes: "dainty" theatrics and "manly" muscles.

And to continue with the stereotyping, it's the geeks of MIT that are studying this. So maybe a little brains can go along with all that brawn and drama that makes up pro wrestling these days.

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