What a former college instructor really thinks…

Proposed Academic Courses

Proposed Geography Course: I See London, I See France

Students in the U.S. feel insufficiently motivated to learn about foreign lands and cultures.  Unfortunately, it is not the educator’s job to force students to learn anything or even to tell them to “try it and you may like it.”  The preferred route is to motivate them to be interested in a topic.   Motivation works (occasionally) but you have to come up with something stupendous to hook potential learners.

This proposed course offers a hook that will let students see the most intimate details of foreign lands.  That’s right!  We’re going to be examining people’s underwear.  This may sound like a frivolous topic but I assure you that it is not.  If you visit Amazon.com or any of the international Amazon websites, you will find that people in foreign countries prefer different types of underwear.  Often, this underwear is much more revealing, and this provides an excellent chance to grab students’ attention.

This may also provide encouragement to students who might not otherwise consider studying abroad.  Students will have a chance to see some of the most important sights that foreign countries have to offer.  And let’s be honest: we all know that the inhabitants of many countries show everyone these sights without a second thought.  Our students will be global citizens in no time.

But the administration may object: Don’t we run the risk of having our students stay overseas forever?  Won’t that negatively impact our tuition revenues?  This objection is legitimate, but educators must always remember that our first priority is what’s best for the students.  If we’re concerned about students not wanting to come back, we can always encourage them to bring back souvenirs to share with their friends.  Then, on Diversity Day, they can all parade around campus wearing the culturally significant artifacts they discovered while abroad.  Our entire community will be celebrating diversity in no time!

That parade should be enough reason for the university to approve this course proposal.

Proposed Religion Course: Satan Worship for Fun and Profit

I already know what you thought when you read the headline for this post: Satan worship is not a religion and has no business being in a college curriculum.  Of course, you’re wrong again.

The problem is that you have completely misunderstood what the college curriculum is all about.  Here at the University of Professors’ Arcane Interests, anything goes!  Our professors have redefined the term “religion” to encompass all sorts of practices that have traditionally been excluded from that designation.  Allowing Satan worship into the fold is only fair; who are we to judge what counts as a religion and what doesn’t?  It even fits perfectly with  what other departments are doing; the English department considers Harry Potter to be just as literary as Shakespeare and the music department rakes in the dough by filling auditoriums with its “Rock for Jocks” course.  If nothing else, learning about Satan worship will give students valuable insights on what they are learning in their other classes.

But that’s not the only benefit!  A Satan worship course could be fun for students.  Carving pentagrams into their wrists could be the most exciting lab experience they’ve ever had.  How can we not take this opportunity to get students engaged with science?  And think of all the educational movies they could watch during class.  This would free the professor from having to create lesson plans, allowing more time to publish research that no one will ever read.  And because students will end the course with a thorough knowledge of Satan worship, they will be well equipped to use that knowledge to make money in the entertainment industry.  So even though you might have moral qualms about students learning about Satan worship, never forget that there are useful practical applications for all knowledge.  There is no such thing as useless knowledge. 

Caveat: if your child plans to join the clergy, this is not an appropriate course selection.  We are here to proclaim the equality of all religions and the clergy aren’t into that kind of thing.  We will not be teaching our students that human sacrifice and bodily mutilation are bad.  Sorry.

Proposed Biology Course: The Anatomy of Kittens

College students usually hate science classes and professors are often stuck trying to find a way to make the subject interesting.  As we all know, there is one foolproof way to get students interested in anything: add some cute, cuddly kittens.

And it works so well with an anatomy course, too.  You can talk about all the parts of a foot and then show a cute little kitty paw.  How adorable!  And having a kitten in front of the classroom means that the students will always be looking in your direction instead of at the clock.

But you may object: anatomy courses usually require dissections and there’s no way a professor could ever convince students to slice into a kitten.  Your point is well taken, but you’d be wrong.  When it comes to academics, students are always looking for the easiest way to get something done, and the kittens make dissections so much easier.  Because kittens are small and young, their skin is much easier to pierce with the scalpel.  And as an added bonus, they don’t yelp as loud or claw as hard as a fully grown cat; this is especially important if a student applies an inadequate dose of formaldehyde before starting to cut.  As you can see, everyone benefits when you bring kittens into the lab!

The janitors benefit too because they won’t have to clean up the mess.  Just tell your students to wrap up their kittens and bring them home when the dissection is done.  Their dogs will appreciate the tasty treat.

Proposed College Math Course: Pre-Algebra for Dummies

The only place it’s politically incorrect to call someone a dummy is in the classroom.  Just go to the bookstore and find the “For Dummies” book series.  Outside of our educational institutions, people often have a sense of humor about what they’re good at and what they’re not, even if they’re a little sensitive about it.  I  think it’s time for us to permit this kind of forthright honesty in our classrooms.

Therefore,  I would like to propose a course called “Pre-Algebra for Dummies.”  If you don’t know what entering college students can do these days, you can’t understand how much this course is needed.  Pre-Algebra is normally a course that is taught in Junior High, but I think we can redefine it so that it fits the needs of today’s students.  “Pre-” means “before,” and today’s kids need just about everything they were supposed to learn before Algebra: long division, multiplication tables, calculating averages, etc.   If we wanted to be really thorough, we could add some lessons like “I am not the center of the universe.”  The only problem is that their parents haven’t figured that out yet.  (Stupidity is obviously hereditary.)

But you may object!  Many students won’t need math in their professional lives and giving them a Pre-Algebra course in college will make them feel stupid.

First news flash: they can feel stupid now or they can feel stupid later, but they will feel stupid sometime.  I wonder how many people wouldn’t have had to suffer through a foreclosure if they could have understood the math behind the exploding ARM and other financial arrangements they were making.  You can’t dumb a mortgage contract down to such a low mathematical knowledge base.  However, you can make ignorant people feel good about an unwise decision that lets them “own” a house.

Second news flash: Even English teachers need to know how to calculate an average.  Their students will make them feel stupid if they botch that.  Trust me; students are fantastic at math when it comes to getting every last point they think they deserve.

Third news flash: Math majors from some universities (including state flagships) are not sufficiently proficient in math to teach the subject in middle school.   I’m sure there’s a joke there somewhere, but it looks like the joke’s on the 13-year-olds.

Fourth news flash: The only way you’re getting these kids through a “college-appropriate” math course without this extra preparation is to inflate their grades beyond all recognition.  Oh, wait… you’re doing that already.

Fifth news flash: You’re a dummy if you think protecting the kids’ self-esteem now will help them in the future, psychologically or professionally.  Just please don’t report me to the college’s diversity office for calling you a dummy.  From now on, I promise to respect and celebrate people of all intellectual capabilities.

Proposed Chemistry Course: Postmodern Alchemy

As some of you may be aware, scholars in the humanities are often suspicious and even downright hostile towards the STEM fields.  According to them, people who claim that science reveals “knowledge” are playing a trick on everyone.  Science is said to be nothing more than the legitimation of certain views that work to exclude other ways of knowing.  A greater respect for other knowledge systems is urged.

With this in mind, I am proposing that the university offer a course on Postmodern Alchemy.  But you may object: alchemy has been completely debunked.  You would be correct with your objection, but none of that matters in today’s university.  If the English department can teach Freud as though he were still cutting-edge psychology and Marxism as though it were desirable, then why can’t the chemistry department teach alchemy?  All the subject needs is a good coating of postmodern theory to make it relevant.

And in all honesty, an alchemy course would succeed in creating gold.  Universities make money off of student enrollments and tons of students would file into a lecture hall to fulfill their science requirement with a course that requires no math.  Heck, the course doesn’t even require any science!  Students would always succeed at mastering the material because, after all, the failure to derive gold from other elements is at the heart of the subject.  And when the course has concluded, the college can inform students of how much their hard work is going to help them in their professional endeavors.  Students want to feel good about the work they’ve done and they’ll donate money to Alma Mater if you make them feel good enough about your educational product.

And so you can clearly see that a Postmodern Alchemy course is in the best interests of everybody.  Students get to keep their self-esteem and we get to squeeze gold out of blockheads.