One More Book To Give Away

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For the last of our January book giveaways, we asked you to design a class for the fictional mental_floss_university. To help determine the hypothetical curriculum, I consulted with intern Andréa Fernandes, who is our Senior College Correspondent (and a college senior). Before announcing a winner, here are some classes we'd sign up for:

Professor Sarah:
The Horror Movie: Psychology, Politics, and Religion. As a proponent of why horror movies aren't just for scares, I constantly try to tell people how they relate to some of the most basic topics we deal with on a day to day basis. The issues covered would include:
1) The psychology of horror; why we like to be frightened and what basic fears horror movies tend to exploit.
2) The circular politics of the world and how that influences the horror genre. Different socio-political times tend to create more of certain genres, such as creature features, torture "porn", psychological, etc.
3) How the different religious belief systems influence what is frightening to different areas of the world. This would cover why reincarnation/ghost themes tend to be more popular in Asian countries while creatures/possessions tend to feature more in the US.
4) Also, at least one class on The Accidental Politics of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead.
I qualify because not only have I started a club for this purpose on my campus, but I've also been called "the most qualified on campus to lecture on the topic" (as a student). I regularly lead discussions with other friends and aficionados who are students of archeology, political science, art, psychology, English, creative writing, and education.

Professor Steve Robillard:
Disabilities Other People's Attitudes
or the biggest handicaps are other people's attitudes
I am qualified to teach this because I have arthritis and have use a scooter or wheelchair to get around for the last 17 years. In that time I have learned over and over again that the worst part of having a disability our the attitudes of others. For example while a student at University I needed to take a course for Education majors that was an introduction to special education and disabilities. The class met once a week for 2.5 hours. The topic one week was physical disabilities, and without asking the prof decided it might be a good idea for the class to ask me questions.

They started off pretty innocent, however they quickly devolved into questions regarding sex and personal care. After about 45 minutes of this I had had enough. Know admittedly I can be extremely sarcastic when annoyed. One student asked about the bars in the handicapped stall. I looked right at him and said they were there to hep hold yourself down when you really had to push hard. Still no one got the hint! a few minutes later another student asked if I could still have sex. I told her yes but it required hydraulics, pulleys, a harness and a special hydraulic bed. Finally the teacher ended this question time. On another occasion I had a teacher who was rather curious, but didn't want to offend me by asking me if I could still have sex, so instead she asked a good friend of mine. No amount of good parking can make up for these types of questions.

Professor Kara:
How to survive in the world with red hair.
It would teach the history of red hair (not all redheads are of Irish descent)
Our world population and why red-hair is the best
Which countries to be wary of because of "ginger" hatred or certain east asian countries where people will just reach out and touch your hair (believe me, it's awkward)
How to do your make-up (cosmo rarely has redheaded models and no make-up tips for us)
How to respond to questions about the carpet and drapes
How to spot a fake redhead
and of course, the best sunblock to wear

Professor Kieran:
History of the Anti-Hero: An examination of the modern American psyche through graphic art and film.
The class will begin examining early anti-heroes like Faust, moving through early pulp fiction novels and comics.
It will also examine the cause behind the rise of anti-heroes, such as the disillusion felt after WWII, and the darkening of the public psyche.
Unit 1) What is an Anti-hero?
Unit 2) Early Anti-Heroes
Unit 3) Pulp Fiction
Unit 4) The Man with no Name (Western Vigilantes)
Unit 5) The Dark Knight: Batman
Unit 6) Anti-Heroes in film
Unit 7) The Modern Anti-Hero

Professor Davena:
I would teach "Studies of Belief: What We Believe, and Why." Our lives are shaped by our beliefs. They color the lenses through which we see the world. Yet we do not encourage our children to consider exactly what it is that they actually believe (as opposed to what they have been told and still follow out of habit), nor do we encourage them to ponder why they believe what they believe.

This would not be a class designed to convince anyone to change their beliefs. Rather, it would encourage them to think, and to discuss, what the nature of belief is and how it impacts our every choice and thought. To discuss this topic in a moderated space, where every perspective is honored and none ridiculed, would allow these expanding minds to begin to truly think for themselves.

I have studied philosophy, religion, metaphysics and the human condition for over 30 years and have experience in leading people through a problem to find their own answers. And as a PK (preacher's kid) who realized in her youth that she did not share the beliefs that were espoused in church or home, I know how damaging it is to allow the beliefs of others to rule your life, and how healing it is to stand up and say, "This is what I believe, and I am comfortable knowing that my beliefs are a unique combination of experiences and perceptions that may parallel certain beliefs of others but whose path only I can walk."

Professor HP:
Course Title: Procrastination 101

Description: We will explore the causative theory, process, and consequences of this ubiquitous art found on every major college campuses. The evaluation criteria will contain a final discussion paper, no more than two pages double-spaced, due by 11:59 pm of the last day of the finals. Being true to the spirit of the courses, the lectures will not be scheduled until the last day of the semester; on which date, we will have a marathon 12-hour lecture and discussion that follows.

Instructor: A true master of procrastination that has specialized in this art for more than last decade has agreed to teach this course for the upcoming semester. He is a renowned expert in this field with a very few individuals who can compare his passion and time put in to make sure no assignment ever gets completed before the deadline with extra time to spare. Though there will be never be a guarantee regarding the punctuality of his actions, he can guarantee that he will get the job done: when the deadline looms.

Professor Adrien Cooper:
Personal Finance (or, How to bail yourself out when the government is handing your bucket to someone else.) I am completely baffled by the fact that personal finance is not taught in schools. Not only is consumer debt growing at an alarming rate, a sign that people don't know how or have the self discipline to manage their own money, but now large corporations (banks and the automotive industry to name a couple) can't seem to manage their money either. The current credit system doesn't seem to be doing much good either. Poor credit ratings lead to higher interest rates, which are intended to lessen the risk to the lenders, but somehow that's not working out.

I am qualified to teach this class because I have a Master's Degree in Accounting, have been an accountant for over five years, and I still can't manage my own money.

Professor Steve Kimes:
I have been a pastor to the homeless and mentally ill for ten years and a Bible student for twenty five. This qualifies me to teach the crazy side of the Bible:
Bible 321: Bible Esoterica
Including such facinating subjects as
a. genetalia surgery (Why was it necessary for David to obtain the foreskins of a hundred Philistines?);
b. Prophet torture (Why Ezekiel had to lay on his right side for a year and a half and not cry at his wife's funeral);
c. Apocryphal humor (How Jesus as a youth killed a boy with a curss until his mother scolded him and made him raise the boy from the dead)
and d. Little Known Books (Just how sexy is Solomon's girl in Song of Songs?)

Professor Monika:
Literature 175 / Criminology 100: Detectives of Literature and their Real-Life Counterparts
MW 1:00-2:15, 1 Weekly Discussion Section to be announced
A comprehensive study of the famous detectives of literature and the historical figures upon whom they were based, as well as their authors, historical context, and detection methods. Featuring close studies of Sergeant Cuff of Wilkie Collins's "The Moonstone," Poe's C. Auguste Dupin, Émile Gaboriau's Monsieur Lecoq, and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. The class culminates in an intimate study of A. Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. The final exam will involve two parts: a paper discussing a modern detective or mystery novel in the context of one of the works we have read, and a logic experiment involving solving a staged crime via one of the studied methods.

Booklist:
Christie, Agatha. "And Then There Were None."
Christie, Agatha. "Murder on the Orient Express."
Collins, Wilkie. "The Moonstone."
Conan Doyle, Arthur. "The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes."
Gaboriau, Emile. "Monsieur Lecoq."
Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe."
Skinner, Keith. "The Scotland Yard Files."
Summerscale, Kate. "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher."
Professorial qualifications: an intimate knowledge of the booklist and a passionate interest in the subject of the detective.

Professor Reuben B.:
How to survive long distance relationships.
Qualifications: Having had to survive one for two years, before finally being able to be together with the one I love. =)
Now we have been looking together for more than 3 years. She is from the furthest North possible in Europe (Finland), and I am from the Southest (Malta).
Lesson 1) Recognise if it is worthwhile. I had too many friends start out without asking this simple question, and after lots of expenses, realising they were barking uo the wrong tree.
Lesson 2) How to get along cheap. Saving money to actually spending it into meeting and being together. Includes how to sign up to MSN, and setting up that web cam. Might include Skype if time permits.
Lesson 3) How to share moments together, without actually feeling sadder. What to do to avoid unnecessary jealousy. Also, how to deal with physical urges.
Lesson 4) What to talk about when you talk online, and what to look forward to in moments of despair. (Like taking online lessons together at the mental floss university) Also how to answer awkward questions about your relationship.
Lesson 5) How not to feel awkward when you actually meet.

Professor Paul:
Ethics in Big Business: I'd teach leaders in business how not to cheat their customers and employees, how not to lie, and take responsibility for your actions, and how profit only matters if you can produce something of value.
I believe I would be good teaching this subject because I've learned from all my past mistakes, have learned to tell the truth, and have been dismayed by all the "big businesses" crying for help when they should never have had the need to ask for it.

Professor Karen L:
I would like to offer a series of lectures on Happiness. They would include:
Beyond the Happy Pills: An Objective Examination of Chemically Induced vs. Natural Happiness (Course can be taken in place of Chemistry 101)
Morality of Happiness: Do You Not Care Because You Are Happy? Or, Are You Happy Because You Just Don't Care?
Perpetual Happiness: Why It Just Pisses Off Most People
Being Successful in Your Pursuit of Happiness: An Overview of the Laws Concerning Happiness (a requirement for law students)
What is the Source of Your Happiness? (A course for those esoteric students who truly want to contemplate "finding" themselves)
How to Determine Who will be Happy? Nature vs. Nurture
Ode to Joy: What is the difference between Religious Joy and Ordinary Happiness?
Your instructor, with her sickening sweet positive attitude, is uniquely qualified to teach all the nuances of that elusive emotion: happiness. Having smiled her way through Boot Camp in her younger days, and through chemo just a few years ago, she paid her dues in her field of study.

But since we have to pick a winner, I'm going with Professor Steph's Sarcasm 101, which will be required for all freshmen:

I would teach Sarcasm 101 as a requirement for communications and speech students"¦or perhaps as a foreign language, since it seems to be an alien language to some.

Too often, I have found myself facing people who believe every remark I make to be true, regardless of tone or context. I think it's time that the world is educated in the art of sarcasm and learns to understand the differences between literal language and a sarcastic remark. Since I use sarcasm in everyday life and in journalism when I'm called upon to write an opinion article for my classes, it's time that people understand the way that sarcasm works and that it is not to be taken literally.

Congrats, Steph! I'll email you about your prize.

As for the rest of you, if we ever do build mental_floss_university, we're going to need instructors. Maybe we'll be in touch.

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February 2, 2009 - 10:00am
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