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12 College Courses We Wish Our Schools Had Offered

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It’s that time of year! Here's a look at all of the fascinating college classes you wish your school put on the course list.

1. Topics in Comparative Media: American Pro Wrestling, MIT

Image credit: WWE

If a course that studies "Macho Man" Randy Savage and "Diamond" Dallas Page sounds like your dream come true, congratulations: you can enroll. Originally taught in 2007, this class is now part of MIT’s OpenCourseWare program, a totally free way to “take” MIT classes. (They do ask that you consider donating, though.) Think you’re ready to sign up? Here’s the course description:

Beginning with wrestling's roots in sport and carnival, the class examines how new technologies and changes in the television industry led to evolution for pro wrestling style and promotion and how shifts in wrestling characters demonstrate changes in the depiction of American masculinity. The class will move chronologically in an examination of how wrestling characters and performances have changed, focusing particularly on the 1950s to the present. Students may have previous knowledge of wrestling but are not required to, nor are they required to be a fan (although it is certainly not discouraged, either).

2. Political Ceramics, Bennington College

This is no metaphor about the fragile state of the nation. Students taking Political Ceramics will “explore and identify culturally held meanings, values, and imagery stemming from the political discussion of our national debate leading up to the November election.” And then they will sculpt something from their findings and fire it in a kiln.

3. Staying Sane in a Crazy World, Oberlin College

“War, terrorism, and natural disasters create inhuman life conditions. Yet we know that people do survive these conditions and may even go on to flourish. This course asks: What is the human response to problems of global proportions? How do people cope in a hostile, unpredictable world that may lack the basic necessities for life? We will examine the scientific literature and personal accounts to understand how people stay sane in the face of unbearable circumstances.”

4. Pirates! Archaeologies of Piracy in the Atlantic World, Brown University

It’s not exactly a study of Captain Jack Sparrow and the Dread Pirate Roberts, but it still sounds pretty sweet. With a focus on the mid-17th century, “the golden age of piracy in the Atlantic World,” the Brown course uses history and archaeology to “investigate the way in which the image of the pirate has been constructed in the West, as an embodiment of cultural, legal, moral and sexual transgression, and as an object of both fascination and fear which is still current in the contemporary, global world.”

Parrot optional. I think.

5. Tattoos in American Popular Culture, Pitzer College

Love looking at cool ink? Then you’d probably be a fan of this first-year seminar at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, that looks at tattoo culture in the U.S.

6. Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame, University of South Carolina Columbia

Although a class about meat dresses and head-sized bows made of human hair would be pretty interesting, that’s not what you’re going to get from this. Students in this class learn why we’re fascinated with Gaga’s meat dresses and hair bows, “to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga.”

Lest you still think required reading might include liner notes from The Fame Monster, the professor is careful to note, “This is not a course in music or cultural studies. … This is not a course in Lady Gaga but in sociology”.

7. Monsters in Word and Image, Centre College

Want to pick up a little college credit for studying werewolves and wendigos? (Me too.) If you attend Centre College in Danville, KY, you actually have that option. In Monsters in Word and Image, “Students explore monsters and the broad cultural issues raised by their inclusion in literary, visual, and performance arts, tracing some perennial types (e.g., the biformed human, the ogre, the werewolf) from antiquity to the present as they appear in such genres as epic and lyric poetry, fiction, drama, opera, film, painting and sculpture.”

The best part? No prereqs.

8. Gossip, Cornell University

The next time someone tells you to quit gossiping, tell them you’re just valuing “the making and unmaking and remaking and redissolution of hundreds of old and new categorical imaginings concerning all the kinds it may take to make up a world,” as cultural theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick says. This graduate course at Cornell uses that theory to “investigate the ways in which gossip may produce provisional maps of the world,” but expect to study the works of Freud and Kierkegaard, not Perez Hilton and Page Six.

9. Paradox, Williams College

Ahem.

There are three grains of sand on my desk. This is unfortunate, but at least there isn't a heap of sand on my desk. That would be really worrisome. On the other hand, there is a heap of sand in my backyard. I don't know how exactly how many grains of sand are in this heap, but let's say 100,000. My daughter removes one grain of sand. I don't know why, she just does. It seems like there is still a heap of sand in my backyard. In fact, it seems like you can't change a heap of sand into something that isn't a heap of sand by removing one grain of sand. Right? But now we have a problem. By repeated application of the same reasoning, it seems that even after she removes 99,997 grains of sand--I don't know what she wants with all this sand, but I'm starting to worry about that girl--there is still a heap of sand in my backyard. But three grains isn't enough for a heap. So there is not a heap in my backyard. Now I'm confused. Where did my reasoning go wrong?

Now that’s a class description that gets your attention. I’d be interested in hearing more from the professor who wrote that, wouldn’t you? In addition to the sorites paradox above, this Williams class will also examine Zeno's paradoxes of motion and plurality, the liar's paradox, the surprise exam paradox, paradoxes of material constitution, Newcomb's Problem and the Prisoner's Dilemma, to name a few.

10. How to Win a Beauty Pageant, Oberlin College

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Nope, it’s not about putting Vaseline on your teeth and how to choose a good waterproof mascara. The course’s full title is “How to Win a Beauty Pageant: Race, Gender, Culture, and U.S. National Identity,” and it looks at the history of pageants from the 1920s through now to analyze them as “unique site[s] for the interplay of race, gender, class, sexuality, and nation.” And hey, field trip opportunity: the class actually gets to view a pageant in the flesh.

11. Did You Hear the One About...?, Bennington College

Here’s another fun one from Bennington, which apparently takes jokes very seriously:

“This is an advanced research seminar on jokes, joking, and humor. We will read some classic and recent theory in psychology and related disciplines, as well as mostly recent research. Students will be expected to design and conduct research of their own design, individually or in collaboration with others, and to contribute to others' research on a regular basis. Readings are likely to include the following: Billig, Laughter and Ridicule; Freud, The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious; Goldstein, Laughter Out of Place; Holt, Stop Me If You've Heard This; Trimble, A Brief History of the Smile.”

So you’re telling me SeinLanguage isn’t on the required reading list?

12. Who Am I?, Brown University

The perfect course for college freshmen. No, like most of the classes on this list, “Who Am I?” is not what it seems. It’s actually a “study of self in contemporary society,” and an examination of the “structural and situational forces that shape the self and their impact on personal development, orientations to the world, and interpersonal behavior”. It really is limited to first year students, however, so if you’re a confused sophomore, you’re out of luck.

Bonus: UChicago Conference on Jersey Shore Studies, University of Chicago

This was a one-day conference held on the University of Chicago campus last year, but it’s definitely worth a mention just based on the keynotes: "Guidosexuality," "'You're Not Even Italian': Stereotype, Authenticity, and the Warped Reality of 'Jersey Shore'" and "The Monetization of Being: Reputational Labor, Brand Culture, and Why 'Jersey Shore' Does, and Does Not, Matter."

Even better, papers presented at the conference included "GTL (Gym, Tan, Labor): Reproducing Labor-Power on the Shore," "The Jersey Saga: Honor Culture in Medieval Iceland and Modern Seaside" and "Foucault's Going To The Jersey Shore, Bitch!"

See Also: 22 Fascinating and Bizarre Fall 2011 Classes

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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