Crazy College Courses

Study for an exam on Syrah? Take a lab in levitation? How about tuning into TV for credit? All this is possible in college today, even in the Ivy League. Courses not only sound more interesting than "Calculus 101," they actually are! However, courses that sound fun may not always be easy.

Underwater basket weaving used to be the catch-all term for ridiculously easy college classes. Those easy classes do exist, but don't get fooled by the creative subject titles. You will have to work, even if your future degree in medicine or education does not depend on it.

Drinking for credit--Ivy League style

Binge drinking may be a terrible problem on some college campuses, but Cornell University teaches students the finer side of wine tasting. "Introduction to Wines" is harder than you think. Students are charged with learning the history of wine, different languages, climate, culture, and the science behind wine making. The 800 juniors and seniors are only drinking six 1-ounce measured samples each class.

"I think that after the first three weeks of class the students realized they need to keep up with the information each week," says Professor Stephen Mutkoski. "The course has a reputation on campus as being the most failed class at Cornell. I do not try to dispel this urban legend, but I am confident that anyone who has the brains to get accepted at Cornell can master the subject matter and pass the course."

Mutkoski has taught the class, offered since 1963, since 1984. I can vouch for this class, having taken it in 1993. It's not easy, but I have been able to navigate phone book-like wine lists with ease to this day.

If you get shut out of the very popular "Wines," as it's called on campus, there's another one dedicated to beer.

Does the campus store sell a sorcerer's stone?

At Frostburg State University in Maryland, students can earn three credits for "Cosmic Concepts," a general education physical science class based on the Harry Potter series. Levitation, magical creatures, and time travel are all subjects covered in the class.

However, students DON'T have to read the Harry Potter books or watch the movies, though many do. There's a regular science textbook for this class. And if you think the required reading isn't required, Professor George Plitnik will convince you otherwise quickly with daily quizzes, homework assignments and three exams.

"This is a course about SCIENCE, not some easy Harry Potter discussion class," says Plitnik. "Anyone who does not do the assignment, is not prepared for class, and/or flunks the grueling tests will flunk."

OK: Some classes ARE as easy as they look

The University of California, San Diego actually offers underwater basket weaving as a recreation class. In one "marathon" session, students actually learn basket weaving from an engineer in the college's jacuzzi. The class has been offered for more than 25 years and always fills up. The class does have a practical element: It's always held right before Mother's Day with the idea that the basket would make a great gift.

The classes that keep on giving

Professor Mutkoski says that his wines class has led students to consider new careers.

"There have been numerous students who have been bitten by the wine bug and make a career change." he says. "Some have gone on to work for individual wineries, some worked with wine importers or wholesalers, some have become brand managers, others have gone into retailing of wine and a few have gone on to work for wine publications such as 'Wine Spectator'."

In the wizard world of Harry Potter, Professor Plitnik has similar hopes.

"My ultimate goal is to pique the students interest in science, using Harry Potter as a 'hook,'" he says.

Creative offerings

Other creative class offerings include:

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A class to teach young college students how to drink?....Hmmmmmmmm....I think college students who have grown up with technology and computers know damn well how to drink. They need to learn how to use a can opener, and learn how to tell the time on a standard time clock, as well as learn the mechanics of a clothes hangar, an ice tray, and with some kids, learn how to tie their shoes after using velcro all their lives. Ever try asking a teen how to add and subtract with their fingers? More so, try asking a teenager who is tech savvy, 'who wrote the Declaration of Independence.' They wouldn't know what 'independence' means. Kids 'depend' on calculators, computers, iPods, and other gadgets to think for them.

October 05 2010 at 1:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ahhhh....Just what today's young college student needs. A class perpetuating the lie that someday soon they will be lounging in thier Manhattan apartment, sampling exotic wines, breads and cheeses. In this economy a class called, "How to co-exist while living in your parents house at the age of 30" would be more appropriate not to mention useful.

October 04 2010 at 9:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I took the Cornell course in 1985. It is not a "gut" course. In fact, it is perhaps the most useful, on a daily basis, of any of the courses I took. As a result of that course I can order, with complete confidence, wine in any business or social setting. Cornell's hospitality program is unmatched in the world. That they offer a piece of that to the entire university community is a tremendous asset.

October 04 2010 at 9:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They have a wine tasting class at Rutgers University. It's under the microbiology department and it sure isn't a breeze.

October 04 2010 at 9:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Larry W. Bruce

no wonder the college classes are so expensive---we have to pay for all the booze and the idiots participating and running the classes.

October 04 2010 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carl Carter

That is all very fascinating Pete, but, what exactly does it have to do with the subject of the article I've just read?

October 04 2010 at 3:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carl Carter

So, what if you don't want to be a Sommolier?

October 04 2010 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't know how to taste wine so I have to take a course to show me how. Meanwhile, down the hall, my peers are learning economics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and engineering. LOL. What a bunch of fools.

October 04 2010 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chris king

they should give a course in beer bong.i bet that would fill up quick.

October 04 2010 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

College courses like these make any sane person wonder why it costs a fortune to give a child an education these days. Colleges constantly carp for more money and then waste it setting a course on wine and drinking? Most college students do not have a sense of taste for wine as they are too young; they usually chug beer or cheap plonk often with disasterous results. Educate our children about the things that will make our country great; leave the wine to the time when they are old enough to appreciate it if they wish.

October 04 2010 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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