Wednesday, November 9, 2011


When I was in college, class titles were kind of self-explanatory. I took stuff like Restoration Literature, which was literature of the Restoration period. (Surprise, surprise.) And World Lit was literature of...wait for it...the world.

My daughter (the math major) is registering for classes in spring semester. And she’s getting emails from professors about their classes. They explain the classes they’re teaching. For example, “Non-Linear Operations Research.”  The blurb is “using scientific methods to determine the best way to analyze, operate, and predict (yada, yada, yada).” Then the professor listed “celebrated applications” of this type of math study. Celebrated? Really? Does anyone celebrate math?

But there’s more behind these emails. They’re worded like advertisements. Hey, take my math class, you’ll love it. It’s “celebrated.” I suspect the profs are trying to make sure that they have enough students for the class. You see, the department rotates professors through the classes that no one wants to teach. And who wants to teach remedial math? (Though most of those are taught by grad students; Ariel’s friend had a student whine, “You want us to memorize three formulas?! But that’s too hard.”)

Or perhaps it’s to combat Here is a sample of an average entry of a math professor: Nice guy, who’s really good at math. However, he has only a nodding acquaintance with English. The average grade in his class is a 30, but it’s okay because at the end he distributes a few good grades just for the heck of it.

So I can understand why they’ve resorted to advertising (i.e., propaganda). Maybe the lit departments should consider doing something similar. I can imagine how they’d advertise Restoration Lit. Instead of “obscure literature written by giddy royalists who never met a clause they didn’t love,” it would read “forgotten plays and essays by writers who are thrilled to be rid of Milton/Cromwell and are pre-modern precursors to the bawdy situation comedy.” Literature studies would never be the same.


  1. These days, I guess even professors worry about their "images" and have to put an advertiser's "spin" on their classes. Kinda sad, really. (Says the long-time "domestic engineer" ...)

  2. It's a tough world out there these days. My favorite class name I heard in college was "Physics for Future Presidents." That was the actual name of the class, and it was a basic physics class for non-science majors who needed to fulfill their General Education reqs. I didn't take it as my brush with Physics in high school made me realize I'm deathly allergic to it, but I heard from others it was actually pretty fun. It was physics applied to every-day things - like how microwave ovens work.

    RE: Once Upon a Time - I'm ambivalent after 2 eps, but I did want to see the Snow/Prince backstory episode. More curious to see it now that I've seen your comment.

    RE: Lost Hero - You and your hubs are too cute! I like how Riordan has expanded his story world in this book and I enjoyed the story/new characters, but SON OF NEPTUNE is better - like I LOVED it. Part of it is the benefit of having Percy Jackson back in a big role, but I think overall the characters are more complex, the plot more intriguing. Can't wait until you finish Lost Hero & get started on Neptune. :D

    Good luck with the rest of your sequel edits! Woohoo!

  3. We don't need to put a spin on Chemistry classes.

  4. Luke-

    No one puts a spin on chem classes because there's no point--we all know they're boring. ;)

  5. Krispy-

    Yeah, I was deathly allergic to physics in high school too.

    BTW, the good episode of Once Upon a Time was "Snow Falls."

    Now I really can't wait to get to the Son of Neptune. (One of my kids has read it twice already.)

  6. That is weird--Ratemyprofessor and writing class descriptions like queries... college has changed a bit since I went.