Teaching 'Judge Judy'

Do you want to know more about zombies in popular media? Have you wished you could weave baskets underwater? Ever ruminate on how the comic strip "The Far Side" depicts the relationship between insects and humans? According to the Online Colleges blog, some Americans are actually answering "yes" to those questions, and so we have "The 15 Strangest College Courses in America." Personally, I think the blog has chosen some that are downright weird (see: Underwater Basket Weaving), others that are more predictable (Learning from YouTube), and a few that offer truly illuminating entry points into important subjects. Here are my two favorites:

9. Joy of Garbage

The Joy of Garbage is a Santa Clara University course that actually deals with real science through the lens of garbage. Students study decomposition, what makes soil rot, the chemicals that give garbage an unpleasant odor, and they also learn about sustainability when it comes to the things we throw away. Classes don't just study household garbage either, there's also a section on nuclear waste. And topping things off there are even field trips, with students visiting local sanitation plants and landfills.

6. The Science of Harry Potter

Not only does Frostburg State offer a course on the science of Harry Potter - it's an honors course. The class discusses topics such as whether or not Fluffy the three headed dog could be explained by genetic engineering or if antigravity research could actually produce a flying broomstick. The course is modeled after (and uses as a textbook) the book "The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works," by Roger Highfield. The class is geared towards non-science majors and, probably not surprisingly, there is no lab work.

What do you think of the courses on the list? Do you think students — or their parents — should pay money to learn about cyberporn or The Simpsons? Are these courses really strange, or are they just contemporary ways to frame traditional subject matter?

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