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 ...
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 ...
No. 4: Scrabble - University of California, Berkeley
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?
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.