The Dumbest (Real) College Courses

The stupidest college courses are the wackiest, most rudimentary, and straight up useless college courses actually taught at respected universities. From the things that you really should already know how to do, like getting dressed – something you can learn at a Princeton University course – to learning how to argue with television personality Judge Judy – like offered by the University of California, Berkeley – these real college courses teach skills that exactly zero employers look for in prospective job candidates. For many of these strange college courses, what is being taught either falls into a category of common sense or something so obscure that it would only be useful in ridiculously rare situations. In the “do you really not know how to do that already?” category, the Ohio State University offers a course on how to watch sports, one that is surely popular among their scholarly student athletes. Similarly, Montclair State University offers a class on how to watch television, in case that’s something you never quite mastered on your own. In the “let’s pay thousands of dollars of our parents money to learn things we’ll never, ever use” category: Bates College offers a seminar about the career of Whoopi Goldberg; the University of Texas will teach you to speak Klingon; and Appalachian State University will teach you how to determine if Harry Potter is a fictional character or actually someone who existed in history.   So if that advanced calculus or macroeconomics class you’re taking is just too mainstream for you, head over and try one of these stupid college courses. You never know when skills like street-fighting mathematics or the joy of garbage will come in handy.  

The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Race, Class, Gender, and Media

From Skidmore College in New York: “From Disney tween to twerking machine” assistant professor Carolyn Chernoff is heading up this course which will “[provide] rich examples for analyzing aspects of intersectional identities and media representation.” Says Chernoff, “I created it as a creative and rigorous way of looking at what’s relevant about sociology and sociology theory.”

Because learning to twerk and (relatively) effortlessly evolve from a Disney princess daddy’s girl into a controversial pop icon is what your parents are paying for. 

What If Harry Potter Is Real?

From Appalachian State University: “This course will engage students with questions about the very nature of history. Who decides what history is? Who decides how it is used or mis-used? How does this use or misuse affect us? How can the historical imagination inform literature and fantasy? How can fantasy reshape how we look at history? The Harry Potter novels and films are fertile ground for exploring all of these deeper questions. By looking at the actual geography of the novels, real and imagined historical events portrayed in the novels, the reactions of scholars in all the social sciences to the novels, and the world-wide frenzy inspired by them, students will examine issues of race, class, gender, time, place, the uses of space and movement, the role of multiculturalism in history as well as how to read a novel and how to read scholarly essays to get the most out of them.”

Because nothing says I’m not a conspiracy wackjob by blurring the lines between fiction and fact.

How to Win a Beauty Pageant

From Oberlin College: “This course examines US beauty pageants from the 1920s to the present. Our aim will be to analyze pageantry as a unique site for the interplay of race, gender, class, sexuality, and nation. We will learn about cultural studies methodology, including close reading, cultural history, critical discourse analysis, and ethnography, and use those methods to understand the changing identity of the US over time. This course includes a field visit to a pageant in Ohio.”

Because with enough practice, hard work, and training, you too can someday land on “Toddlers & Tiaras.” 

Goldberg’s Canon: Making Whoopi

From Bates College: “Participants learn about the career of Whoopi Goldberg including Alien Whoopi: Star Trek and the Goldberg Generation, Renaissance Whoopi: Elizabeth Regina and What Aunt Jemima Might Say if She Stepped Off that Box: The Paradox that is Whoopi Goldberg.”

Because one can never truly know if intimate and detailed knowledge of Whoopi Goldberg’s career will be needed in a life or death situation.

Getting Dressed

From Princeton University: “The seminar is an inquiry into the social significance of clothing and a close examination of the relationship between clothing and identity in 20th-century America. To explore that juncture, students keep a literary sketchbook in which they record their observations about the ways clothing comes into play in the news, in their surroundings and in their own lives. The journal helps the students hone their powers of observation and learn key skills for examining the world.”

Because picking out a pair of yoga pants and UGGs each morning is hard.

Philosophy of Phish
From Oregon State University and taught by avid Phish fan, Dr. Stephanie Jenkins: “Major philosophical theories about art and its meaning, from ancient to modern times. How philosophers have understood beauty, the imagination, art and knowledge, art and pleasure, art and emotion,” in 2014, through the lens of Phish, offered online as Dr. Jenkins follows the band on their summer tour, teaching from the road.

Because you need an excuse to follow the Phish summer tour, and what other class requires its students to “attend” Phish concerts online?
Oh, Look! a Chicken!

From Belmont University: “This course will pursue ways of knowing through embracing [little ants, carrying a morsel of food across the table] what it means to be a distracted [I could sure enjoy a peanut butter sandwich right now] learner as well as [OMG–I get to go to the beach this summer] developing an awareness [I need to trim my fingernails] of one’s senses. The instructor teaches in the school of music, [do I hear water dripping?] so there will be an element related to that woven [spiders are amazing] into the course. [oh, it’s the fish tank behind me] Those registering for this section may even learn to juggle [I’ll be right down, I just have to finish this…what was I working on?].”

Because nothing makes life’s distractions more distracting than becoming aware of all the little things that can be distracting. 

How to Watch Television

From Montclair State University: “This course, open to both broadcasting majors and non-majors, is about analyzing television in the ways and extent to which it needs to be understood by its audience. The aim is for students to critically evaluate the role and impact of television in their lives as well as in the life of the culture. The means to achieve this aim is an approach that combines media theory and criticism with media education.”

Because we’ve all been watching television incorrectly this whole time and we never had a clue.

Arguing With Judge Judy

From the University of California, Berkeley: “TV “Judge” shows have become extremely popular in the last 3-5 years. A fascinating aspect of these shows from a rhetorical point of view is the number of arguments made by the litigants that are utterly illogical, or perversions of standard logic, and yet are used over and over again. For example, when asked “Did you hit the plaintiff?” respondents often say, “If I woulda hit him, he’d be dead!” This reply avoids answering “yes” or “no” by presenting a perverted form of the logical strategy called “a fortiori” argument [“from the stronger”] in Latin. The seminar will be concerned with identifying such apparently popular logical fallacies on “Judge Judy” and “The People’s Court” and discussing why such strategies are so widespread. It is NOT a course about law or “legal reasoning.” Students who are interested in logic, argument, TV, and American popular culturewill probably be interested in this course. I emphasize that it is NOT about the application of law or the operations of the court system in general.”

Because the skill of knowing how to make illogical arguments for of television judges will look really, really good on your resume.

The Art of Walking

From Centre College: “Art of Walking asks students to stop focusing on constantly doing and concentrate more on simply experiencing. It’s a different kind of intellectual atmosphere than the one they usually experience during longer terms.”

Because that whole process of putting one foot in front of the other can be insanely difficult without proper instruction. 

Maple Syrup: the Real Thing

From Alfred University: “”Wanted: Someone with a background in meteorology, chemistry, botany, forestry, art, and cookery who is also a nature lover with lots of patience. Must enjoy long hours of hard work in the snow, cold, and mud.” Even though this is an accurate description of a maple syrup producer, don’t let it scare you! The method of producing maple syrup is one of the things in our society that has endured even in today’s culture of constant change; fundamentally it’s the same process Native Americans used centuries ago. 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. No prior experience expected.”

Because pancakes are freakin’ delicious.

Sport for the Spectator

From Ohio State University: “Develop an appreciation of sport as a spectacle, social event, recreational pursuit, business, and entertainment. Develop the ability to identify issues that affect the sport and spectator behavior.”

Because college kids really need to master that important life skill of watching sports.

Learning from YouTube

From Pitzer College: “About thirty-five students meet in a classroom but work mostly online, where they view YouTube content and post their comments. Class lessons also are posted and students are encouraged to post videos.”

Because we totally need another excuse to zone out with mindless YouTube videos.

The Phallus

From Occidental College: “A survey of theories of the phallus from Freud and Lacan through feminist and queer takings-on of the phallus. Topics include the relation between the phallus and the penis, the meaning of the phallus, phallologocentrism, the lesbian phallus, the Jewish phallus, the Latino phallus, and the relation of the phallus and fetishism.”

Because horny college guys need another reason to think about sex. 

Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond

From the University of Texas: “Why would anyone want to learn Klingon? Who really speaks Esperanto, anyway? Could there ever be a language based entirely on musical scales? Using constructed/invented languages as a vehicle, we will try to answer these questions as we discuss current ideas about linguistic theory, especially ideas surrounding the interaction of language and society. For example, what is it about the structure of Klingon that makes it look so “alien”? What was it about early 20th century Europe that spawned so many so-called “universal” languages? Can a language be inherently sexist? We will consider constructed/invented languages from a variety of viewpoints, such as languages created as fictional plot-devices, for philosophical debates, to serve an international function, and languages created for private fun. We wont be learning any one language specifically, but we will be learning about the art, ideas, and goals behind invented languages using diverse sources from literature, the Internet, films, video games, and other aspects of popular culture.”

Because pickup lines in Klingon always work on the ladies.