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Author Topic: Useful college classes
KittenGoddess
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For everyone in college (or who has ever been in college), you know that there are sometimes quite a few classes you have to take that leave you scratching your head and wondering "What just happened here? Why did I have to take this?" You're bound at least occasionally to be left wondering why you took the class and how it's going to help you in the future. For example, I'm taking a class about Medieval Europe. It seemes interesting and all that, overall it should be enjoyable. But what useful skill am I really aquiring? Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for aquiring knowledge for knowledge sake, you can't ever go wrong learning something new. But at the same time, it seems like I'm required to take far more of these "knowledge for knowledge sake" courses than I am courses that actually teach me a skill that's used in the real world (or in some courses, they do have a use in the real world, but unfortunately that use isn't really explained). I find myself and my fellow students being required to take these less useful courses, and yet some very helpful ones are overlooked by almost everyone except the people within the department they are offered through.

So I thought maybe we could have a little thread here for suggesting really useful courses that would be important to individuals no matter what discipline they may be in.

Fundamentals of Public Speaking - Probably one of the most helpful courses I've ever taken. Yeah, it's a performance class, so you have to speak in public (ie. in front of the class), which may put some people off. But the bottom line is that someday you're going to have to make a presentation or an argument, and it's going to be alot easier if you know how to make a good solid argument.

Organizational and Managerial Communication - I'm taking this class right now. It's all about the real world workings of the corporate world. Once again, it's a performance class. You learn leadership and communication principles and specifically how to apply them within industry.

Intermediate Composition - Hate to write? Too bad, you'd better learn to do it well if you expect to get any place at all.

Anybody else have any suggestions?

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BruinDan
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I think KittenGoddess has some excellent choices there. The Public Speaking course I took made all the difference for me, even though I was shaking like a leaf when I first stood up in front of 212 people. Writing is equally important, since those who are able to do so effectively will stand out against a sea of those who have no mastery of the language whatsoever. Here are a few others that I found helped me:

Physiological Science - All about your body, folks. How it works, why it does what it does, how to take care of it, and what not to do. Before taking this class, the most accurate information I had about my own body was that which I 'learned' out of hearsay. Actually taking a course which explained why the body reacted certain ways to certain stimuli, how metabolism actually works, and how best to maintain my body in a decent manner really helped a lot.

Emergency Medical Technican - Many colleges are now offering credit for EMT classes that are both great on a resume and great for helping others. I was actually EMT certified before I got there, but I decided to take an additional course for credit's sake. There are many levels of EMT, and obtaining an EMT-1 certificate (the most basic) is usually enough to secure you a job with a local ambulance company. These jobs can be quite lucrative and can work around a college schedule. So not only are you helping people and working to save lives, but you're helping pay your own tuition with it. And that's always a good thing, right?

And finally...

Atmospheric Sciences - Now this is about as geeky as you get, and I'm afraid I'm guilty of having AtmoSci be my favorite group of classes I ever took in college. But imagine never having to get your weather report from TV or newspapers or internet again. Imagine looking up at the sky and saying to yourself "Hmm...it's going to rain tomorrow" while your friends stare at you with befuddled looks on their faces. Imagine winning sixty bucks from a friend when you accurately predict a rainy weekend when she plans a beach trip. All true stories, folks. AtmoSci teaches you all about the world you live in. Why it rains when it does, why fog develops, why it gets so blasted hot in the summer and so darned cold in the winter. But more importantly, it teaches you how to recognize and identify certain patterns in the weather so you know what clothes to wear for the day. And as silly as it sounds, I can't think of anything more important than knowing whether it's a pants or shorts day. Can you?


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[This message has been edited by BruinDan (edited 09-26-2002).]


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Beppie
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Actually, Medieval Europe does have uses beyond knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Many of the world events we are dealing with today have their roots in things that happened in Europe during Medieval times- taking a course like that can give you some pretty interesting perspective on issues that are very relevant to the modern world.
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DarkChild717
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I don't know. My English Classes have all helped me a great deal. I got a gold star in my 105 class. (Yes, I got a gold star on my college paper. First one, actually.)

Foriegn language classes are always helpful. Not only can you understand another language, it will also help you to better understand your own.

I'm sure there are more, but I really don't know right now. I'll come back when I am awake.


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emsily0
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darkchild, didn't you say you're a senior in high school?

em


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Gumdrop Girl
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I think some folks are gonna hate me for nominating this one, but I do think my organic chemistry class was really useful. but it's only useful if you understand it, which too many ppl don't. heck, i didn't get it on the first try, either.

Human reproduction has served me well here. That was a good class. That's where i learned most of the mumbo jumbo i employ here.

And as much as it kicked my in the arse, I think introductory calculus serverd some sort of (evil) purpose. My boyfriend's roommate is teaching it now (they make the grad students be teaching assistants, and the poor guy is struggling 'cause he doesn't know how to teach).

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Zanney
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Don't laugh, but I think one that would be very useful would be a class on basic manners, etiquette and social graces. A lot of people don't know basic manners, gestures of respect etc, or even that RSVP is important, and not just there for decoration! I think society would function a little better if people actually learnt social ettiquette because, let's face it, for a variety of reasons, not everyone learns it from the home.

I've just moved to Australia, where the whole system of university and colleges are different to the US (and very different from what I'm used too). Uni here is very similar to high school (in some of my classes, attendance is actually taken, and if you aren't there for a certain %, you fail). People start off studying specifically what they intend to do when they finish. It's hard to explain - but it is just different. There are very few classes like in this thread. Sometimes a compulsory Australian history class (most often not), and sometimes a compulsory computer skills class. Rarely, there is even a public speaking class.


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Beppie
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Is learning about ettiquette really an academic pursuit though? Such a course might have a place in extra-curricular leisure and recreation activities, but I definitely wouldn't want to see people getting college credits for knowing which fork to use at dinner.
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Gumdrop Girl
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At my uni, there are workshops where they teach you etiquette. No credits, but it's useful to know. They set up a formal dining situations and teach you how to mind your P's and Q's. There are also workshops that teach you how to apply for graduate/professional schools, interview, write a resume/CV, and all that "real world" sort of stuff.

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"I am so smart, I am so smart, s-m-r-t....I mean s-m-A-r-t." Homer J. Simpson
"Mmm ... floor pie!" Homer J. Simpson


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KittenGoddess
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quote:
Originally posted by Beppie:
Is learning about ettiquette really an academic pursuit though?

I don't know, I think it might be useful. Although if it's given for credit, I'd like to see it offered along with business ettiquette. I think everybody would agree that that might be helpful especially if you're entering the world as a junior executive or some such thing. Alot of people don't know how to deal in business and business/social situations. Might be kinda snazzy, IMHO.

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KittenGoddess
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lemming
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I'd like to second a composition class. no matter what you are going to do in life, learning how to write clearly and competently makes you look smarter while you're doing it.

human sexuality, though a few years at Scarleteen could easily qualify.

and take the opportunity in college, if you can find it, to take things you always wanted to try even if they're impractical. right now, I'm taking ballet again, after taking it for 7 years as a child. I always wanted to go back to it, and when I found out that I could take classes through the Uni at a very nice ballet school, I jumped at the opportunity.


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Beppie
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To be completely honest, I don't really think that any sort of ettiquette classes- business or no- have a place in universities, unless its more of a study of the socio-cultural implications of the systems of ettiquette, rather than teaching people how to be polite. I'm not saying that taking such a course wouldn't be of value- but it should only result in something like a Certificate of Business Ettiquette, rather than contributing to a university degree.

I feel that one of the best things about these useful university courses that are being discussed is the fact that they allow people to combine intellectual pursuits with life skills. However, in a university, I do think that intellectual/academic merit is a must if a course is to give you credits.


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Zanney
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As you so wisely said, Beppie, uni should be teaching life skills in addition to academia. And IMHO, manners and ettiquette qualify as such a skill.

It's sad but true that at my uni many of the brilliant professors who are masters in their field have no idea when it comes to social graces. You can possess incredible academic prowess (and degrees to prove it) but still get lost...

Consider a job interview: Candidate One is smart - s/he knows everything and has qualifications coming out of their ears. They have no social skills whatsoever, and when asked to work in a team, shrink into a corner. Candidate Two - not as many qualifications, but still capable of doing the job. A team player, confident, polite and articulate. If you were HR, who would you choose??

Teaching someone the "technical" side of a subject is great, but they often need social skills to pull it off effectively.


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TXRebelGirl
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I have to say that I think HUMAN SEXUALITY should be a requirement. Also, ANY PUBLIC SPEAKING course is a wonderful tool throughout the rest of college. It helped me not only with my level of confidence (which was at an all time low coming out of high school LOL) and it helped me tons with writing the millions of papers that you invariably are made to write during the college years. Another class that I think takes a backseat and shouldn't is NUTRITION. Think about that one! Without good nutrition you might as well put away your pens and pencils because your body and mind are not going to be able to keep up with each other. I took a combination class which included aerobics and nutrition and it changed my life permanantly. It's good for life...I now applywhat I learned in nutrition class to mine and my daughter's daily diet.

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CutiePie4eva
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this is a really great post. =)

thanks for thinking of it. i'll keep it in mind when i go to college in about two years... =*( i'm scared. lol

i really want to take a PUBLIC SPEAKING class before i enter college, i'm going to search around for one. i want to start a service project, which would mean talking... in front of people, about a subject that i feel wierd talking about in person (actually its safer sex... =) I'm not sucking up or anything to the site. I've been wanting to do something for about a year, and I finally decided to go for it).

although, i am not yet in college, i must say that i believe taking a some type of COMPUTER APPLICATIONS class is a really great idea, I recieve them in my high school because it is a technical school.

You learn shortcuts and such, so it makes using word processors quicker. We learned how to use excel, for calculations (I know I'm going to probably use it for balancing my checks one day... because that is all too annoying to do by hand lol). And, last but not least, powerpoint presentations. I loooove powerpoint! lol, you can use the slideshows for presentations for school and for your job later on in life, etc. I know a lot of jobs use them these days, a number of college professors do, pretty much any type of lecture.

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Beppie
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quote:
Originally posted by Zanney:
As you so wisely said, Beppie, uni should be teaching life skills in addition to academia. And IMHO, manners and ettiquette qualify as such a skill.

Actually, I think you misinterpreted what I said somewhat. I meant that its certainly a bonus when you gain useful skills in addition to what you learn at university (although I would also argue that any learning at all will give you some sort of useful skill), but I am very much against any university course that teaches something for a primary reason that is NOT academic merit. I'm not saying that those sort of courses wouldn't be useful, but they really should not have a place in universities. I was thinking about this last night, and came to the conclusion that something academic and intellectual (and therefore deserving a place in a university) involves the analysis, research and/or development of an idea. This covers a wide range of disciplines from mathematics, medicine, computing and science to English, philosophy and economics, but I really don't see how ettiquette of any kind does this, unless as I said before, you're doing a study of the socio-cultural implications of different forms of ettiquette, in which case it would become some kind of anthropology (and no doubt quite interesting), and not simply learning a series of "how-tos" that are an end in and of themselves.

Furthermore, I very much doubt that many people come out of university with so few social skills that they can only huddle in a corner during a job interview, and I would imagine that there is a probably a reason for that extending beyond anything that a university could teach. Things like tutorials require class discussion and participation, I've been required to engage in group work a number of times throughout my degree. For people who are truly worried that they don't have decent social skills, they can always take a course that requires more of them, such as drama. Or, they could take an extra-curricular course in job interview skills- I'm not saying that this sort of thing isn't valuable; just that its not the sort of thing that should contribute towards a university degree.


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Beppie
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Anyhow, I figure that since I've been so opinionated in this thread, I really ought to make some suggestions as to what I found to be the most useful courses in my degree.

Mind, Meaning and Metaphysics- First year philosophy. This course taught me important skills in reasoning and developing an argument. It forces you to develop new ideas, as well as incorporating the ideas of other people. Furthermore, it gives you a sense of where our cultural tradition comes from, as you study philosophers from ancient Greece, right up to philosophers living in America, Europe and Australia. Doubtlessly, this sort of cultural fluency is useful in looking for a job.

Grammar and Meaning- Linguistics isn't everyone's cup of tea, and many people would probably be turned off by the word "grammar" in the title, but I found this course both interesting and useful. You learn how to use language to your best advantage for a particular purpose- definitely useful in marketing and sales. In fact, I use what I learned in this course in my current job all the time, and the effects really show. Another linguistics course that I use in my current job is Anthropological Linguistics, which is definitely one to take if you're at all interested in the way humans use language to establish cultural regulations and norms (such as ettiquette). The combination of these two linguistics courses allows you to manipulate language in a job situation in a way that is advantageous to you.

Aboriginal Studies- As an Australian, I feel that its pretty important to have at least some idea of where our indigenous people are coming from, as the issues surrounding Aboriginal people are things I will likely be debating and voting on for my entire life.

Second Language Learning and Teaching- Although I don't have a second language (aside from a smattering of Dutch), if you live in a mainly English speaking society (and probably most of us do) where people from different language groups often move in, or possibly have a long standing coexistance, its good to have a grasp of the issues faced by people who need to learn the language.

It would not be possible for me to say which of the English courses I've taken have been most useful to me. Since I hope to one day have an academic career in that area, all of them have been. I would highly recommend that anyone who has the inclination take a course or two in English, however. While very few jobs may require you to know Shakespeare or Tennyson, you will find that the analytical skills you develop in an English class will stand you in good stead whereever you go. An employer will know that a student who received good marks in English has excellent literacy skills, is able to think creatively, and is able to do so within a set format.


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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by Beppie:
but I am very much against any university course that teaches something for a primary reason that is NOT academic merit...

Frankly, I couldn't disagree more. The whole idea of "thought for thought's sake" is all fine and dandy, but there are very real elements of how to live one's life that tend to get left behind in the stuffy pursuit of knowledge. Sure, it's great to be able to read Middle English poetry or come up with a design for a four-story art building, but can you tie your shoelaces in the morning? I kid you not...a friend of mine just graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and the dude cannot tie his shoes.

That's a rather extreme example, but I use it to drive home the point that there is more to learning than simply analyzing the socio-cultural significance of something. One can sit in a room and debate something all he or she wants, but in the long run, it's whether or not that person can sustain him or herself in an environment full of people that makes all the difference.

I had polished off the equivalent of four years of college by the time I left to gata job. While I was out there, I realized that while I could speak three languages and had a broad commandment of the law, I didn't know how to do very simple tasks that were necessary for daily life. Simple things like repairing my own car or washing clothes without ending up with pink underwear or shirts that wouldn't even fit my 9-year old sister. If it sounds rather humiliating, it is. All the top-tier college education money can buy can not teach you those very necessary skills unless they offer courses which are specifically geared towards them.

And for this reason, UCLA created Life Skills 101A in the Winter of 2000. I was working with the PD at the time and didn't know about it until much later, but if I had been given the chance, I would have enrolled in it first thing. The class was created for incoming freshman, and only women were allowed to take it for the first year. After word got out what an amazing course it was, it was opened up to everyone who wanted to enroll in it, and more sessions were offered.

In less than two years it has become one of the top three most popular courses at UCLA, and there is talk of making it a requirement. Little things like how to change a tire, interviewing techniques, interpersonal skills, how to obtain insurance, basic legal information, basic medical information, formal dining etiquette, study skills and conflict resolution are all touched upon in the course...and people I've known who have taken it have said it was nothing short of life-changing.

I regret that I didn't get the chance to take the course, because I'm sure I would have learned a lot. But the point is that the course is there for the good of all the students who know that their primary purpose in college is for the purpose of higher learning, but still need some basic pointers that they may be lacking. Denying them such a class on the grounds that it isn't "intellectual enough" seems rather pretentious indeed.

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[This message has been edited by BruinDan (edited 09-25-2002).]


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Beppie
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But that's what universities are for- intellectual pursuits. I'm not dissing the importance of learning to tie your own shoes, but you should go elsewhere to learn it. Universities should be for intellectual learning- that doesn't mean that there aren't other forms of learning that are equally important, but those forms of learning should take place in other institutions. You go to university for academic qualifications. If you want other qualifications, then go elsewhere.

[This message has been edited by Beppie (edited 08-31-2002).]


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KittenGoddess
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quote:
Originally posted by Beppie:
But that's what universities are for- intellectual pursuits.

I'd have to disagree with that to a certain extent. Yes, college is for intelletual pursuits, but at least in the US, it is also designed to prepare you for the workforce. Yes, some people do choose to seek continuing education. But a many (if not most) move directly into the job market (especially in fields such as engineering). That's what you're paying insane amounts of money for...to obtain the knowledge and skills to continue on either in academia or in industry.

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KittenGoddess
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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by Beppie:
But that's what universities are for- intellectual pursuits.

And what could be more intellectual than learning how to live your own life?

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Olive
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This isn't a college class, but it was useful: keyboarding/ buisness comunnications that class was a lot of typing, err. We also did a lot of speech and presentations with Power Point. I think that class helped me a great deal. Before I wasn't good at presentations or speaking, but now I can stand up infront of the class and make eye contact. And I can stand infront of my presentation without looking at it, just having cues and speaking about something that isn't written down for the class's veiw.

[This message has been edited by Olive (edited 08-31-2002).]


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Beppie
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quote:
Originally posted by BruinDan:
And what could be more intellectual than learning how to live your own life?

I don't think that's an intellectual pursuit at all. Plenty of people who aren't intellectually inclined (and there isn't anything wrong with that at all) manage to live full and productive lives, while plenty of people with a vast amount of intellectual capacity do not. Personally, I don't think this is something that can be taught in a classroom or out of a textbook. Sure, you can drum ettiquette into peoples' heads and teach them to tie their shoes, but the real life skills come from getting out there and living it. Intellectual capacity doesn't really come into it. Now, I'm not saying that it isn't intelligent to go out there and obtain certain practical skills that you need, because it is. Its just not intellectual.

As for universities preparing you for jobs- when you go to university in order to obtain a job, in my opinion, it should be because that job requires an academic qualification. It may be that your job also requires other non-academic qualifications, but a university is not the place to get these.


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Lin
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Well, I would say I am somewhat in between on this. I am currently in University and I was previously in what we call a Polytechnic.

A Polytechnic is more focussed on practical work as compared to theoretical work. And as Kitto said, it does prepare us for the workforce.

Since I am studying mass communications, an example would be in my polytechnic, we learn how to use a camera or a radio console but in Uni, the students would learn about the history of how the console came about and radio history but would never lay their hands on a radio console, ever.

Here in Uni, everything is theory work and I can honestly say that without my polytechnic experience, I would be totally ill equipped to go out into the work force. Employers surveyed would much prefer a polytechnic graduate as compared to a Uni graduate.

But then again, we have people who believe a Uni degree is the be all and end all.

I'm not sure how this goes in with talk of etiquette classes and all but I just believe there has to be a mixture of both and too much focus on either one would be detrimental in the long run.


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TXRebelGirl
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How interesting that this discussion has taken this turn. I was recently (before registering for this semester) at a meeting at my college (large turnout) and the speaker asked everyone present what they hope to gain from their college experience. Not one person suggested expanding their horizons or enriching their lives through learning as a goal. ALL were trying to get "a good job", a "better job" or "more money". I brought this up as I felt it was very sad but very true. For many people, especially those with children or those that are struggling to work their way through school it's as if they have tunnel vision - the straight path to money. Not saying everyone in those situations but quite a few. It's unfortunate but true these days. Just thought I'd throw my two cents in...

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DarkChild717
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quote:
Originally posted by emsily0:
darkchild, didn't you say you're a senior in high school?

em


I am indeed. My district has this awesome program called Running Start. It allows High School juniors and seniors to attend College either part or full time. I opted for the full time route. So, this year, I graduate from HS on June 12, and then I turn around and graduate from college June 13.

Basically, I get to do everything at the college except pay tuition. But they limit the number of credits we can take. 18 a quarter, max.


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Dzuunmod
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quote:
Originally posted by DarkChild717:
Basically, I get to do everything at the college except pay tuition.

Sigh, if only...

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Zanney
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quote:
Originally posted by BruinDan:
And for this reason, UCLA created Life Skills 101A in the Winter of 2000 ... The class was created for incoming freshman, and only women were allowed to take it for the first year.

BruinDan, why was it only offered to women for the first year? Isn't that kind of sexist? Male students would need those skills just as much as female students. And at the risk of being controversial, I would say that some male students might need the class even more.


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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by Zanney:
BruinDan, why was it only offered to women for the first year?

That was the big mystery. Basically the push for the class came from UCLA's Women's Studies Department, and while they were happy with the turnout they were less than pleased when the course was opened up to both genders later on. The concept at the time (which I still find rather extreme) was that women are generally not taught basic things because there is some inherent bias both at home and in schools that prevents them from getting some vital life skills imparted in them. So an entire course was offered to them in an attempt to rectify this alleged lifelong system of bias.

It seemed sexist to a lot of people, and there was a great raging debate about it in the Daily Bruin at the time. Lots of men who couldn't take the class felt that there were missing out on something that had become a very vaulable learning experience, and lots of women felt that it was unfair to have any single course offered to one gender and not another. So the administration wisely opened it up to all freshmen and sophomores, and when there are enough people to teach the courses it will be available to anyone who desires it. Seems like progress to me.

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Dzuunmod
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Over the course of my summer job, I came across the case of a radical feminist (her term - not mine) named Mary Daly who taught for years and years at Boston College, in the Theology department. Thing is, she refused to let men register for her classes, because she said they would inhibit the women there. She always arranged with the male students to teach them separately.

Last I heard, she was on leave from the school because of a dispute over this policy.

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KittenGoddess
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Hey Danny, out of curiosity...was it open to all women, or just to women's studies majors?
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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by KittenGoddess:
Hey Danny, out of curiosity...was it open to all women, or just to women's studies majors?

It was open to all women. There were some men who were Women's Studies majors, and I think the department wished to exclude them so they specified a "women only" policy on the class.

And yes, Mary Daly is a familiar name. We read all about her exploits in our campus paper. Evidently she is still on paid leave over her refusal to admit men into her classroom. I'm just not so keen on the whole concept of single-sex education. It seems so blatantly sexist, and I can't imagine what sorts of riots we'd have if an all-male curriculum were proposed.

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alohamora
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See, I'm always jealous hearing about the cool courses other universities have, when the course offered as the "most helpful" for me was one titled University 100 which was basically the background about the history and mission of the university.

Yawn.

But this is an appropriate back to school topic for us here in the states, and if I had to venture a useful college class, it'd be Community Service Learning.

You know how you can sit in a class for a long time and just absorb information? This course allows you, either in groups or individually (I took it twice I liked it so much) to go out and apply what you've learned, to interact with the folks in your area and to share that information.

Very cool and highly useful.



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Zanney
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Just as a different angle to this, what do you think would have to be the least useful class you've had to take??

Or have you never taken a class you've never felt would help you later on?


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marty
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Hmmm, American schooling is definately different. (Duh)

This whole idea of classes like that is completely alien to me. We just study subject content here in the UK and thats about it. Occasionally schools will offer after school groups on things like debating skills and the occasional lecture but nothing like what you Americans seem to have. (Bloody Yanks *Smiles*)

Favourite and worst class... Well, PSHE used to be good fun (Although I dont do it anymore). We just got to sit in a big circle and talk about lots of different issues, like drugs, the police, world events. Occasionally we'd have a guest in or watch a video.
Most useless class... I'm not sure really, I guess they all have some kind of a use, although I always found the idea of forcing people to learn Quadratics a bit pointless, unless your going on to do Adv. Math of course... Or just want to help your maths in general... So I guess it isnt really pointless...

Oh well, have a good one!


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