Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Ever since I read Stephen Colbert’s book, I Am America and So Can You, I’ve wanted to try my hand at writing college catalogs. On page 126 of his book, Colbert took some common college classes and wrote his version of one-sentence catalog descriptions for them:

ENG 324 Careers in Poetry. Just move back in with your parents now.

ART 331 Native Art of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Ooh, look. Somebody drew a salmon.

PHIL 101 Introduction to Philosophy. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, I hope it lands on a philosophy professor.

Although it would be hard to top Colbert’s catalog descriptions, I had an overwhelming urge to write descriptions of some of the classes that I had to take in my educational career:

GER 111 Beginning German. Spend several months and several hundred dollars, using a hugely over-priced textbook, to learn a language of a country you’ve never been to and then retain only how to count to ten (ein, zwei, drei . . .)

PHIL 513 Philosophy of Vocational Education. Explore the innovative idea of taking college classes that actually lead to employment.

ECON 110 Principles of Economics I. Learn scary information about how screwed up the U.S. economy is, but gain no understanding of how to balance your checkbook or pay off your student loans, which is why you took the class in the first place.

While there are some excellent college classes out there (i.e., the ones that I teach), others are, at best, forgettable and, at worst, post-traumatic stress syndrome material (ones that other teachers teach). But I do like the idea of college catalogs telling the unvarnished, brutal truth, even if it means no student will ever knowingly and/or willingly take those classes (except mine).

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