Not Your Usual College Curriculum

I read an article this past weekend about some "quirky courses" at some N.J. colleges.

They are not the old 1960s joke about taking basket weaving, but there is "Circus Arts" at Bloomfield College, which teaches students the basics of circus life — from tightrope walking to juggling to riding a unicycle  and lessons about teamwork, conquering fear and overcoming obstacles.

Centenary College has apparently been offering some unusual ones for the past few years including courses on The Simpsons, cults, reality television and the computer game Sim City.

You can take "South Park and Philosophy" at Monmouth University (there are books on that), or "Gender, Sexuality, and Pop Music in the 1980s" at the College of New Jersey, or "Harry Potter Phenomenon" at Rowan University and "History of Hip Hop and Rap" at Ramapo College.

At my own alma mater, Rutgers University, there is the more upscale "Wine Insights," intro to wine-tasting class which (even without taking the class) I would pair with Fairleigh Dickinson University's "The Psychology of Fine Dining." That last one may be a bit tougher because it includes a "food sampling" lab session.

Of course, before we judge these courses, we would need to see the actual syllabus and coursework. You could make a challenging course out of the philosophy of Seinfeld (a book I did read) quite easily.

The critics (besides some parents who might feel that the tuition they are paying shouldn't go to such courses) might include the authors of Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses whose research shows that most students are not challenged in their classes and few showed significant improvements in critical thinking, complex reasoning or written communication skills after four years in college. Ouch.

It might be interesting to fulfill your soc requirement with the "Sociology of Salsa" at Saint Peter’s College.

William Paterson University's "Fundamentals of Comedy Writing and Performing: Stand up" is either a lot of fun or as painful as an open mic night at the Improv.

I was happy to read that the offering at NJIT (where I teach in a graduate program) doesn't sound silly at all.

The "Habitat for Humanity" class at at New Jersey Institute of Technology is something that fourth year architecture students (the hardest working students there, I would maintain) can take to go beyond building homes on paper or with models and computers and actually produce a real house for a real family.

I know Professor Sollohub and I doubt that the class is easy. I love the fact that partnering with Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit group that builds houses for needy families. It sounds a lot like a typical architecture class - students design houses with construction costs under $100,000, a five-person jury picks the winning project. That two top designers are given internships with an architectural firm and complete their designs during winter break and into the spring semester.

It's interesting that none of the courses in the article are at two-year colleges. That's where my full time work happens and I suspect that we are so focused on getting students through 60 credits of general education (core) courses that will transfer to four-year schools, that there is no time for any true electives.