April Fools: Truly Ridiculous Classes

Some departments like Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity (CSRE) and Cultural and Social Anthropology (CASA) are notorious for offering joke classes with titles and course descriptions that lend them ostensible legitimacy. But many of these classes are merely studies of feminism, race, or the corruption of Western civilization in disguise. The humanities are experts at devising creative ways to study the same topics: hence, the “interdisciplinary approach.” If you find yourself taking one of these classes, remember that “oppression” is a solid answer for any dilemma or question.

While some Stanford classes may be equal in credit, not all are equivalent in work load or academic merit. The hard science students from anecdotal evidence tend to be more oppressed by their work load (even if they complain about it less). Thus it is no surprise that this quarter’s top joke classes all come from the humanities.

English175: Ecology through Poetry; 5 units; John Felstiner. M, W. 11:00-12:30
Anyone who ever took IHUM Literature into Life with Professor Felstiner knows to avoid his classes like a plague of caterpillars. This class includes much of the same reading material and most likely also features Professor Felstiner’s pompous bravado singing songs of himself. Basically, it is an extended study of environmentalism. If students are really interested in ecology, they should look to the earth sciences. If students are really interested in poetry, there are other poetry classes in the English department that are more worthwhile.

HISTORY36N Gay Autobiography; 4 units; Paul Robinson. T, Th. 1:15-3:05
This is a freshman seminar, and perhaps it is geared toward freshmen for a reason. 1) Freshmen are the easiest to influence and indoctrinate and 2) most upperclassmen have better classes to take. While this class does fulfill the gender distributive requirement, it doubtlessly lacks any academic merit and substance. This sounds more like a sociology class than a history class, especially in the inclusion of “identity” in the course description. How often do students discuss gender identity in history classes?

CASA138 Archaeology of Sex, Sexuality, and Gender; 5 Units; Barbara Voss. T. 2:15-3:05
5 units for a three hour discussion of sex. Enough said.

CSRE 179G Indigenous Identity in Diaspora: the People of Color Art Practice in North America. 4 Units; Cherrie Moraga. Wed. 2:15-6:05
Identity seems to be the buzz word in most joke classes, perhaps because “identity” is such a malleable, comprehensive term. It’s a catchall for gender, race, ethnicity, and religion. The registrar’s office should begin clamping down on the use of “identity” and “diaspora” in course titles because such terms are too vague and expansive. They fail to give students any real insight into the class’ topics or objectives. The ostensible object of this class is to study and examine Native Americans through their art. But this class—like many art history classes—is most likely about oppression: the oppressed identity of the people of color.

SOC 46N Race, Ethnic, and National Identities: Imagined Communities; 3 Units; Michael Rosenfield. M, W. 12:15-1:05
There it is again: “identity.” The humanities have no qualms about studying imagined or imaginary things. Nor do many humanities professors have any problems imagining things and making up ideas themselves. Anything having to do with race and ethnicity goes, even if it is just imagined. Last year, 75 percent of students expected to get an A in this class. In a class discussing imagined things, it is not difficult to see why.

COM 166 Virtual People; 5 Units; Jeremy Bailenson. T, TH, 11:00-12:15
What one must love about communications classes is that they are almost all worth 5 units, but most involve only half as much brain-power as science classes (there are some exceptions). This class on virtual people basically seeks to apply an interdisciplinary approach to studying how people represent and interact in a virtual arena (e.g. Half-life). It sounds more like a student initiated class than one taught by a full-blown professor worth a full-blown grade and 5 units. Could a digital persona take the class and get an A? Last year, 59 percent of students expected to.

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