College tuitions are higher than ever before, but students and their parents can rest assured those expensive fees are helping them learn valuable skills for their future. Or so they hope. Then they find out there are college courses that let students watch pornography for hours, discuss survival tips for the zombie apocalypse and study the twerking of Miley Cyrus. Those are just a few of the bizarre courses being offered by U.S. colleges and universities. All of these are either current courses or have been offered within the past couple of years.
10. The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Race, Class, Gender and Media
Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Don’t worry parents, your daughter will not be asked to stand up on a desk and twerk in front of the class. This course, offered a couple of years ago during summer classes, promised students would learn about “The rise of the Disney Princess, gender stratification and the hyper-commodification of childhood, what happens to Disney stars as they age, bisexuality, queerness, and the female body.”
9. God, Sex, Chocolate: Desire and the Spiritual Path
University of California, San Diego
What shapes our desires? Can we control our desire, or are we at the mercy of our own insatiable appetite? We’ll give the class an A+ for its innovative title.
8. Wasting Time on the Internet
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
People now spend a huge chunk of their life on social media or on the Internet. While some think this is “dumbing down” society, Penn professor Kenneth Goldsmith begs to differ. So students taking his course literally surf the web for an entire class. As he wrote in an article in the New Yorker explaining the course: “Nothing is off limits: if it is on the Internet, it is fair play. Students watching three hours of porn can use it as the basis for compelling erotica; they can troll nefarious right-wing sites, scraping hate-filled language for spy thrillers; they can render celebrity Twitter feeds into epic Dadaist poetry; they can recast Facebook feeds as novellas; or they can simply hand in their browser history at the end of a session and present it as a memoir.” Ok, then — we’re just glad to hear the students are not wasting their time.
7. Aliens: Close Encounters of a Multidisciplinary Kind
Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass.
We can all probably agree that aliens should be studied — because they’ve apparently been studying us, according to this course curriculum. This Hampshire College course takes a look at the history of UFO sightings, abduction claims and the search for extra-terrestrial life. Fox Mulder would definitely approve.
6. Game of Thrones
Star Trek may be the only TV show to inspire more college courses than Game of Thrones. HBO’s hit series can be examined in multiple ways, from a compare/contrast of the TV show and the book series, to a look at depictions of sexuality and violence in the media.
5. Kanye Versus Everybody: Black Poetry and Poetics From Hughes to Hip-Hop
George State University
The class is for anyone who thinks rapper Kanye West is a misunderstood genius. From the course guide: “Kanye West has been talking your head off. Over the past several years especially, the variously prolific rapper has been waxing poetic, making a series of public proclamations and postulations regarding aspects of his own aesthetic genius and the plight of the black creative mind today — all while tussling with paparazzi (literally and figuratively) in an effort to be accurately understood.” There’s no truth to the rumor that members of the Kanye West class will crash the Taylor Swift class after final exams and complain about the grading system.
4. The Hunger Games: Class, Politics and Marketing
American introduced this course in 2014. Students will read The Hunger Games trilogy of books, then discuss topics including “oppression, feminism, food deserts, rebellion, the publishing industry, and social media marketing.” No one will look at you funny if you wear your mockingjay pin to class.
State University of New York, Binghamton
To be fair, this is not an actual course in the curriculum, but a training class started in 2016 for resident assistants (RAs) at the university. Dealing with the topic of “white privilege,” it’s hard to imagine such a title would be used with any other group of people (ie. “StopBlackPeople2k16,” “StopMuslims2k16,” etc., without creating a public outcry. From the course description: “The premise of this session is to help others take the next step in understanding diversity, privilege, and the society we function within. Learning about these topics is a good first step, but when encountered with ‘good’ arguments from uneducated people, how do you respond?
University of Southern California
OK, the formal name for this class is “Writing 150: Writing and Critical Reasoning: Identity and Diversity.” But everyone calls it #SelfieClass. Sure, some of the course work calls for students to take selfies, discuss and write about them, but associate professor Mark Marino’s course explores deeper meanings of the selfie. “When we look at selfies, we’re also looking at the beginning of the 21st century,” Marino told USC.edu. “The cultural moment of the selfies will pass and become something that’s iconic of our age, the same way that photographic self-portraits or painting self-portraits or religious journals were the selfies of their moment.”
1. Surviving The Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Disasters, Catastrophes, and Human Behavior
Michigan State University
Despite the weird name, this online course covers some valuable lessons about survival, disasters and human nature. From the course guide: “Why do some survive and others don’t? What are the implications for planning, preparedness, and disaster management?” The zombie class has even won a number of academic awards. College students who do not attend MSU may take the course online for credit. Whether you’re interested in taking the course or not, check out the intriguing trailer for the class at Zombie.msu.edu.