In the past, the Review has often published quarterly features making fun of the most ridiculous-sounding classes in the Bulletin. In the spirit of fairness and balance, I’m going to list five classes that I think are pretty sweet. I’m going to limit myself to classes I’ve taken personally, so do forgive me if your favorite isn’t on the list.
1. CS 106A: Programming Methodology. Stanford’s CS department is one of the best in the world- I’m sure they’re great at all sorts of fancy things that I could never in a million years understand. But my favorite thing about our resident CS nerds is their willingness to teach anyone the basics of Java, and their astounding ability to do so in fun and engaging fashion. CS 106A was my first experience with programming, and I loved it because it forced me to think and work in an entirely new way. I would recommend this class to literally everyone on campus- the projects may be huge time-sucks, but the exposure to the CS mindset is totally worth it. And honestly, nothing beats that feeling you get when your code finally works.
**2. ETHICSOC 171: Justice. **Think philosophy and ethics are boring, irrelevant, or too fuzzy? Take this class. Care about politics or social justice? Take this class. Want to learn how to think, read, and discuss at a higher level? Take this class. Prof. Cohen analyzes some of the most important ideas and debates of modern times, and he does it without so much as a hint of bias or political proselytizing. Quinn Slack, former Opinion Editor for the Review, liked Justice so much that he recommended that IHUM’s replacement be modeled after it. I consider it the most important class I’ve taken at Stanford. Plus, it fulfills an EC!
3. BIO 150: Human Behavioral Biology. Dr. Robert Sapolsky’s sweeping assessment of the human condition through biology remains one of the most popular courses on the Farm. There’s a reason that Hewlett 200 is standing-room-only during 150 lectures: Dr. Sapolsky is perhaps the best lecturer at Stanford, and the course explores some of the most fascinating topics in neuroscience and psychology, including human sexual behavior, religion, and aggression. And it’s not just for Bio majors, either: I have friends in every department from EE to Public Policy who loved every minute of this course. I do, however, recommend that non-Bio folks take the class credit/no credit; Bio and HumBio majors have a huge advantage on the tests (by virtue of already having learned all of the basic biology), and you’ll be able to enjoy the class more if you’re not stressing about out-performing pre-meds. (And plan ahead! This is only offered every other year.)
**4. ENGLISH 90: Fiction Writing. **I loved this course because a) it forced me to actually write a story instead of just thinking about it, b) it gave me the opportunity to have people read & criticize my work, and c) the intimate seminar setting made for some awesome class camaraderie. But even if you’ve never written before, English 90 is an incredibly fun and rewarding class- and it’s a great break from the heavy analytical stuff that most of us spend our time doing.
**5. BIO 151: Mechanisms of Neuron Death. **A fifteen-person seminar with Dr. Sapolsky about neurological disorders? Sign me up! There are some caveats, though. Unlike the rest of the classes on this list, this one is for serious neuroscience nerds only, and requires quite a lot of bio background. Enrollment is by application only, and you really only have a shot if you’re a senior. But once you get in, the course is absolutely incredible. The combined lecture/discussion format is awesome; Dr. Sapolsky focuses on getting the class to understand how scientific knowledge about the brain is discovered and developed. The content itself- Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, seizures, Parkinson’s, ALS, and more- is insanely interesting and frighteningly relevant. And although the workload is tough, after you leave this class, you’ll never worry about writing scientific articles again.
So there’s my list. I should say, in the interest of full disclosure, that I work in Dr. Sapolsky’s lab and live with a bunch of CS 106 section leaders. But I still stand behind these courses100%. So which classes do *you *recommend? Let us know in the comments!