15 Bizarre College Courses

Students in a college classroom as seen from above

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The college experience is about first-time freedoms, career exploration and the pursuit of knowledge, but today's students have the opportunity to take a host of bizarre classes that may not exactly lead down a career path.

A class devoted entirely to watching YouTube videos? College credit for studying Internet pornography? And how would your parents feel if you took a course on Lady Gaga's rise to fame? It may sound outlandish, but students are taking such classes at colleges and universities across the nation. Read on to learn about some of the weirdest college courses offered today.

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Zombies in Popular Media


Are you a fan of "The Walking Dead?" Is "Zombieland" your favorite movie? If so, Columbia College in Chicago has just the class for you. Its Zombies in Popular Media class traces the history of zombies in movies and literature and explores how zombies relate to themes of capitalism, individuality and xenophobia.

The flesh-eating undead are also the focus of a new course at the University of Baltimore titled Media Genres: Zombies. The class' syllabus features such titles as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Patient Zero, and students will screen classic zombie horror films like George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead."

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Joy of Garbage

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This class may sound like a "waste," but the Joy of Garbage class at Santa Clara University delves into the science and consequences of what humans consume and discard. Students follow the path of trash as it's treated, burned, dumped, recycled or reused, and they look at the social justice issues that arise, such as how landfills are frequently located in poor neighborhoods. The class also develops sustainable solutions for modern waste problems and even takes field trips — to sanitation plants and landfills.

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Learning from YouTube

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Professor Alexandra Juhasz of Pitzer College has said this class is a “pedagogic experiment focusing on the potentials and limits of digital-media culture.” Unlike most college courses, Learning from YouTube is open to the public, which mirrors YouTube's usership. While the class structure is fairly open, there is one big rule: All classwork, assignments and discussions must take place on YouTube. The class meetings, syllabus and other documents are even posted on the video-sharing site.

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The Science of Harry Potter

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Can genetic engineering explain Fluffy the three-headed dog? Could antigravity research produce a flying broomstick? A class at Frostburg State University in Maryland tries to answer these questions and more.

In the Science of Harry Potter course, students analyze magic by applying concepts of physics, biology, chemistry and engineering, and they take a look at everything from the latest teleportation research ("apparating") to Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and the science of taste. Physics professor George R. Plitnik says the class isn't all fun and games; however, he has been known to dress up as Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

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Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles

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Are all those afternoon classes preventing you from staying up to date with "Days of Our Lives"? No worries. Just sign up for the University of Wisconsin's women's studies course Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles. Students in this class watch daytime soaps, analyze their themes and study the social impact of gender roles on the family and the workplace.

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Maple Syrup: The Real Thing


Tired of studying theory and history in college and ready to learn a real hands-on skill? Then Alfred University's Maple Syrup: The Real Thing is the course for you — especially if you love pancakes. In addition to learning the history of maple syrup production, students also create and eat their own syrup and even take field trips to local maple syrup producers, restaurants and festivals.

If you're worried you don't have the right chemical, botanical or culinary background to take this course, put those fears aside — the class description carries this disclaimer: "No prior experience expected."

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Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame

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When University of South Carolina sociology professor Michael Deflem saw Lady Gaga appear on the "Tonight" show last January, he was immediately smitten. Since then he's attended 38 of her shows across the globe, collected more than 300 of her CDs and launched his own Lady Gaga fan site. Now he's offering a college course on Mother Monster titled Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.

As he observed Lady Gaga's rise to fame, Deflem become intrigued by what makes a person famous and what it means to be famous in today's society, and that's exactly what the class delves into — from a sociological perspective, of course.

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Underwater basket weaving

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Although the phrase "underwater basket weaving" is often used as an idiom for a useless elective, it's actually been taught at multiple colleges. While it may bring to mind images of students quickly weaving reeds on the bottom of the campus pool, underwater basket weaving actually involves making baskets by dipping reeds into water and letting them soak — at least that's how Reed College of Portland in Oregon, and University of California in San Diego taught it.

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Philosophy and Star Trek


Georgetown University's Philosophy and Star Trek course is every college Trekkie's dream. The class is taught as an introduction to metaphysics and epistemology philosophy, but these topics are discussed as philosophical issues arise when the show's cast ventures into places "where no man has gone before." In addition to watching episodes of "Star Trek," the class also reads philosophical writings and wrestles with such questions as "Is time travel possible?" and "Could reality be radically different from what 'we' think?"

If you'd like to take a more religious approach to the hit sci-fi show, you can register for Star Trek and Religion at Indiana University. The class watches "Star Trek" episodes and then studies the show's religious themes.

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Cyberporn and Society


You probably never thought you could get away with watching pornography in class, but it's not only allowed — it's required — if you're taking the State University of New York's Cyberporn and Society course. Undergraduate students in this class survey Internet porn sites and examine issues of obscenity and what causes cultures to define pornography in different ways.

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The Science of Superheroes

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How do you transform physics into a more exciting subject? The University of California at Irvine does so by studying the science behind superheroes like Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. For example, students in the Science of Superheroes course examine the physics of flying and fluid dynamics by studying Spider-Man. The class also studies the nature of "spidey sense" and the mechanics of Wonder Woman's invisible jet.

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Popular 'Logic' on TV Judge Shows

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It seems daytime television has inspired yet another college class. However, the University of California's Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular 'Logic' on TV Judge Shows course isn't quite what you'd expect. This class identifies popular logical fallacies on shows like "Judge Judy" and "The People's Court" and discusses why these false strategies are so widespread. In other words, the course is concerned with the illogical arguments made by the shows' entertaining litigants.

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Fat studies

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Professor Jacqueline Johnson's course Fat Studies at George Washington University is just one of many that are popping up on college campuses across the nation. The class teaches students to think of body size critically and politically, and it aims to promote weight awareness and acceptance among people of all shapes and sizes.

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Strategy of StarCraft

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This class is a student-led program that's part of the University of California at Berkeley's alternative education program. In Strategy of StarCraft, not only are strategy and tactics discussed, but the popular video game is also used to teach the art of war.

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Simpsons and Philosophy

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When you have a hit TV show that's been running for more than 20 seasons — one that consistently delves into political and intellectual material — you can't be surprised when it becomes a popular college class. The University of California at Berkeley's two-unit course Simpsons and Philosophy is described as a "fairly rigorous" philosophical course that asks weighty questions like "Can Nietzsche’s rejection of traditional morality justify Bart’s bad behavior?"