11 of the quirkiest courses for fall 2017

Seren Snow, staff writerSeren Snow, staff writer

If you moved to a new country, I would argue that one of the ways in which you can learn about that country's culture and values is by looking at the courses being offered by its universities. College courses and the syllabi that guide them are a reflection of what a country believes the next generation should know in order to succeed.

Often, these serious themes come in more lighthearted packages. The college courses you'll find on the list below are a taste of some of the more quirky-looking courses that will be taught on college campuses this semester. But take a closer look at the descriptions, and you'll see that they have some interesting and weighty learning outcomes.

This list was curated based a search of course catalogues and other rankings, based on my own interests. I ensured that each of them was being offered during the upcoming fall 2017 semester.

Here are 11 of the most interesting courses of 2017:

1: How to Stage a Revolution (offered as 21H.001 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

A study of how governments around the world have overthrown their rulers, with a special focus on revolutions that happened through radical upheavals and violence.

2: The Anthropology of Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion (offered as ANTH M11 at Moorpark College)

As an attempt to get students to see the world differently than they normally do, this course combines a study of religious practices with dancing, drumming, and chanting.

3: Probability and Games of Chance: Poker 101 (offered as MAT 1374 at the University of Ottawa)

A look into the mathematics and game theory involved in poker, as well as the psychology of the decisions made by its players.

4: Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z (offered as SOCI-124 at Georgetown University)

Students discuss race, gender, ethnicity, economic injustice, and other topics with a look at Jay Z's upbringing and music through a sociological lens.

5: Why Do Things Fail? (offered as HONR288O at the University of Maryland)

A study and investigation of real-world engineering failures, including airline flights, interstate highways, major bridges, and the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York after being attacked on September 11th.

6: The World of Wine (offered as CULI100 at Harrisburg Area Community College)

Students learn the fundamentals of wine, including each type, the terminology, the countries that produce wine, and the regulations around wine and spirits. As a lab course, students also participate in wine samplings and go on winery tours.

7: Baseball as Philosophy: God, Beauty, and Morality (offered as FRSEMR 61S at Harvard University)

A deep philosophical investigation of the issues in ethics and morality, using baseball as a focal point. The course includes critical readings of scholarly works on baseball and Plato.

8: The "Other 'F' Word" —Success and Innovation's Sibling? (offered as FRS 109 at Princeton University)

A course meant to teach students not to be threatened by failure, but to instead embrace it as an inevitability—a fact of life. Students explore readings about failure from a historical, technological, economic, psychological, and philosophical perspective.

9: Philosophy & Star Trek (offered as PHIL 180 at Georgetown University)

Students approach a study of Star Trek with a focus on metaphysics. Students also analyze philosophical readings and wrestle with philosophical arguments and apply them to concepts from Star Trek.

10: Game of Thrones (offered as TIDE-1175-01 at Tulane University)

Students have debates about topics that come up in the show "Game of Thrones," such as the role of violence and sexuality. They also discuss George R. R. Martin and his obligation to fans.

11: Science Fiction and Science Fact (offered as PHYSICS 12 at the University of California, Irvine)

A lesson in fundamental physics that draws on superheroes, science fiction works, and current science news.

Which academic programs should you launch and which programs should you improve?

(Richards, Washington Post, 11/2/11, DormBooker, ranking, accessed 8/10; Zamon, Huffington Post, 12/7/2015; Zipcare ranking, accessed 8/10; Kasulke, BuzzFeed, 8/9). 

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