(or, Naming “Unorthodox Research Methods”)
When it came time to choose a title for my university class Unorthodox Research Methods (COMM 840/SI 755 at the University of Michigan), I decided to put some explicit effort into class naming. I’m not sure how many university professors think carefully about their course titles. But I wanted to try.
College teachers have inherited a strange, traditional system of naming and college transcripts that seems to have been generated to satisfy the character length limits of some ancient teletype. (One class on my grad school transcript is listed as “FUNC COM SOC” — another is “STRUC & INST COM SYS”.)
Even when the names are spelled out, the genre of class naming itself is quite odd, and it is often deservedly parodied.
But some professors clearly put some thought into course names. I set out to find them. I asked several of the college teachers and students I know if they had heard of particularly interesting class titles. I reviewed all of the Web articles I could find listing the “Craziest College Classes” and the like.
I discovered something about the genre. I assert it is hard to have an interesting course title about an uninteresting topic and vice versa. While “Brothel Management” (thanks, UNLV) may be an unusual title it is not clever. The same goes with “Ice Sculpture” and “The History of Surfing.” Yes, the topic is striking, but the title is ordinary. But the class title seems interesting because of the topic.
So to some degree these two things have to be related. Yet “Tractor Driving” (in Agriculture) and “Extraterrestrial Life” (in Astronomy) have very uncreative names when you think about it. So I decided to focus on “creative” naming rather than “interesting” course names.
Creative class naming must be be on the rise. As institutions of higher education are all now basing budgets on a tuition-charge-back system where academic units are rewarded for class sizes, the profs are going to be looking around for ideas that sell their courses.
Using the distinction above, here are all of the course titles I found that were creatively named. With two exceptions, they are all actual courses that were taught at universities, as far as I know.
Do you have any names to add?
Creative Names for College Classes:
Art 3xx: Political Ceramics
Communication 2NN: Media, Money, and Power
Computer Science 4xx: Coding the Matrix
Economics 4xx: Game Theory with Application in StarCraft
English 3xx: Illegible Writing (*)
English 4xx: Writing for Nonreaders
Environmental Science 4xx: The Joy of Garbage
Film Studies 4xx: Bad Movies
Government 4xx: Ignorance, Lies, Hogwash, and Humbug
History 4xx: The History of the Future
History 4xx: US History: The Awesomeness of Awesome Americans (*)
Indo-European Studies 3xx: Love in a Dead Language
Linguistics 4xx: Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond
Mathematics 1xx: Slot Machine Math
Media Studies 1xx: A World of Death and Blood (**)
Media Studies 2xx: How to Watch Television
Physics 1xx: Physics for Future Presidents
Race/Ethnicity 1xx: The Advantages of Being White
Sociology 1xx: Leading Social Thinkers and How to Drop Their Names
Sociology 4xx: Homosexuality as a Gateway Drug
Statistics 1xx: Fat Chance
Statistics 1xx: What are the Odds?
Philosophy 4xx: Things that Go Bump in the Night
Philosophy 4xx: Hallucinating
Psychology 4xx: Stupidity
Rhetoric 4xx: Conspiracy Theories
Social Work 4xx: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse
(*) – These are ideas for a course — the course itself was not taught. For the History course, see: http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/edgeofthewest/2012/05/25/my-new-course-will-be-titled-us-history-the-awesomeness-of-awesome-americans/
(**) – I can’t figure out what this course is about, so it may not be a very effective title. Vampires? But it is creative.
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.