Monday, December 13, 2010

The Top 8 California Schools that Are, Like, Totally Wasting Your Money


Ah, California. The state, once so bright and full of promise, has become the “state version” of a deadbeat overweight loser relative, playing video games in the basement of Uncle Sam’s house while being supported by his productive and responsible big brother, Texas.

That’s the reality when California is borrowing $40 million a day from Uncle Sam’s coffers.

All of a sudden that Texas secession thing makes more sense, doesn’t it?

Of course the L.A. Times is utterly clueless, weighing in today with the typical whine about state college tuition hikes.

This is the same L.A. Times that last year ran a “tearjerker” article about how tough it is for illegal aliens in the UC and Cal State systems. Boo-freaking-hoo. By the way, all you kids from Colorado or Maine or Nebraska who want to go to UCLA? You will pay full out of state tuition. Too bad you’re not an illegal alien! The California legislature lets those folks pay the in-state fee. Makes perfect sense, no? Kind of like a big ol’ slice of insanity makes perfect sense.

ANYWAY. With today’s whining about the state university rate hikes, let’s take a look at some of the great ways those education dollars are being spent in the ginormous multi-campus University of California (UC) system, shall we? (You may think of it as an expose on exactly what kind of video games California is playing down there in America’s basement.)

8.  UC Santa Cruz under the Big Top
At UC Santa Cruz, you can take “The Circus in American Culture” – check out this course description:
“Circus arts from their shamanic roots to contemporary practice will be analyzed in a historical, aesthetic, and creative dimension. Lecture, discussion, and demonstrations will explore the theory and practice of American circus arts. In section, students will explore basic circus skills from clowning to tumbling to exhibition of freaks.”
Demonstrations? Exhibition of freaks? SIGN ME UP! Even by the weirdo-standards of Santa Cruz, this is kind of creepy.


7.  It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s some loons at UC Irvine
UC Irvine offers “The Science of Superheroes” and advertises it thusly:
“Have you ever wondered if Superman could really fly? What was Spiderman’s spidey sense? How did Wonder Woman’s invisible jet work? What does it really mean for something to be a scientific ‘fact’? Explore how science works and what constitutes ‘good’ science through case studies drawn from a wide spectrum of people’s experience, for example superheroes, movies and real world issues such as global warming.”
Okay first. If you are really wondering what spidey sense was, or how Wonder Woman’s jet worked, one might be able to infer that you’re not completely with the rest of us here in the realm of FACT, much less science. But I digress. I’m excited that we’re going to learn what makes for good science through people’s experiences (huh?), and I’m even more excited that people’s experiences apparently include BOTH superheroes and global warming (glad the instructor makes clear that global warming is the REAL WORLD issue). Hey, why doesn’t Superman just blast all that evil carbon dioxide with Kryptonite, anyway? Is he a Republican or something?


6.   Driving school at UC Davis
This one’s super-cool. UC Davis offers something called “Field Equipment Operation” every fall and spring quarter, apparently. And it’s really two credits of – wait for it – tractor driving! According to one student review site,
“you’ll get to drive quite a few tractors, from rustic John Deeres to modern models with air conditioning. You’ll learn how to hitch up and operate various implements such as spring-tooth harrow, moldboard plow… and you’ll also learn how to calibrate seeders/fertilizers and move large piles of dirt with a front loader.”
MOVING LARGE PILES OF DIRT. Shucks, was you thinkin’ college meant books and learnin’ and all? But seriously, does this sound like the most amazingly fun class in the history of classes or what?


5.  UC San Diego delves into the psyche of the tagger
UC San Diego brings you back into the classroom (but don’t worry, you won’t have to think) with “Hip Hop: The Politics of Culture”:
“Examination of hip hop’s technology, lyrics, and dance and its influences in graffiti, film, music video, fiction, advertising, gender, corporate investment, government, and censorship with a critical focus on race, gender, and popular culture and the politics of creative expression.”
I, for one, can’t wait to hear about hip hop’s influences on graffiti, as I “enjoy” so very much of this “creative expression” which is liberally applied on virtually every freeway overpass in the greater L.A. area.


4. Surf City at UC Santa Barbara
You gotta love a school with not one but three course offerings on surfing. UC Santa Barbara is known as a “party school” with good reason. Matriculate here and learn all about the “History of Surfing”:
“…from its Polynesian origins to today’s global, commercial, and cultural force, with perspectives from history of politics; economics; science and technology; the developing world; sex, ethnicity, gender; popular culture; and special focus on the environment.”
Surfing through the perspective of the history of politics and economics? Dude that fries my brain.


3.  UCLA is queer
Okay, okay, okay. I ADMIT IT. I hate UCLA. Loathe, despise, abhor. That’s because I am an alumna of – well, let’s just say a rival (private) school that is, in comparison to UCLA, like sunshine and rainbows and ice cream. Whereas UCLA is darkness and hurricanes and Spam. This disclaimer has been offered in the spirit of full disclosure, lest anyone think I am being less than transparent as I pick on the University of Satan Los Angeles, which has offered an academic gem known as “Queer Choreographies”:
“This course takes the rubric ‘queer choreographies’ as a challenge for scholars to grapple with cultural phenomena ranging from AIDS theater to performance art, body art, memorial events, protest marches, and that dizzying array of practices subsumed under the categories camp and drag. In the process, the terms ‘queer’ and ‘choreography’ will be redefined and reenergized.”
OMG, as the kids say. I think we can all agree that there is nothing that will reenergize the term “queer” like a quick frolic through “the categories camp and drag”! Where do we sign up?! And AIDS theater? Can I get season tickets?


2.  Slackers, geeks and the-gender-which-cannot-be-named – the phenomenon that is UC Berkeley
Despite my glowing white-hot hatred for UCLA, even I recognize that there is a UC school that is even more evil. Yes, of COURSE I’m talking about Berkeley! At this august institution, you can enroll in “Arguing with Judge Judy” in which the instructor feels it necessary to offer this caution to would-be enrollees:
“It is NOT a course about law or ‘legal reasoning’… I emphasize that it is NOT about the application of law or the operations of the court system in general.”
Got that, wannabe attorneys? This ain’t for you. Who SHOULD take this course? Well, the instructor goes on to say that it’s for students who are interested in, among other things, TV and “American popular culture.” That is to say, slackers.

Remember our little video game analogy? Well, here at Berkeley, where they pride themselves on being the pinnacle of the UC system, you can take a class on STARCRAFT. That’s right. From the course description:
“UC Berkeley students with an interest in real-time strategy games and the competitive gaming landscape are encouraged to participate in this class. This course will go in-depth in the theory of how war is conducted within the confines of the game Starcraft… What may look like complex topics are just ways we want you to think more deeply about the game to derive a greater satisfaction from playing… The primary goal is for students to learn, enjoy the art of competitive StarCraft, and have fun.”
Oh… having FUN is the goal. Well, that explains the “course workload”:
“Each week, students must submit 2 replays of games they played… Some replays will be reviewed by the class together.”
Clearly Berkeley has more than its share of pocket-protected geeks. But that’s not all Berkeley has – oh NOOOO, not by a long shot. In fact, there is one course that rather encompasses the whole raison d’etre of the entire Bay Area. “Sex Change City: Theorizing History in Genderqueer San Francisco” – now there’s a mouthful, so to speak. This class has been known to meet in the Gender & Equity Center in the Chavez Student Union (natch). The course description will blow your little mind (sorry for the Donovan reference; I can’t help myself. After all, it’s BERKELEY.) Anyhoo. Just ONE of the phrases in the course description promises, “contemporary transgender, queer, genderqueer, and post-queer cultural production and politics.”
Thank goodness! I mean, we’re all conversant with transgender and queer cultural production, but it’s about darn time that someone got around to talking about genderqueer and post-queer versions of same, wouldn’t you say? (California universities – proudly filling the knowledge gap!) Fun things you will get to read for this course:

-“When Strangers Met: Sex and Gender on Three Frontiers” (because of course sex has nothing to do with gender, so they’re strangers, get it?)
-“Romancing the Transgender Native”
-“Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies” (betcha can’t put that one down)
-Midnight at the Palace: My Life as a Fabulous Cockette
-And, by the instructor, an article entitled “Portrait of a Trans Fag Drag Hag as a Young Man.”

Mmm-kay.

Thank you for joining me on this tour of the pride of California’s state public education monolith, the mighty UC system. What’s that, you say? At least the arguably less prestigious California State University system of colleges doesn’t offer such nonsense? Well…


1.  The dumbest class in the history of dumbest classes – and the award goes to Cal State Fresno
Let’s hear it straight from a student at Cal State Fresno, where they offered this course that epitomizes all that is wrong with California – “Self-Esteem”:
“It was taught by two old hippies. It fell under the curricula in the School of Education (I think it was designed for students studying to become elementary school teachers). I took it as an elective, because I heard that it was incredibly easy. Every class session, we would start out by singing, ‘I am special.’ The instructors would call out our names, and after we said, ‘here’ or ‘present,’ they would say, ‘we’re glad you’re here’ in a super sing-songy voice. Our assignments consisted of drawing mind-maps (basically – draw a picture of whatever is going through your mind). For our final, we had to pair up and teach something to the class. My partner and I demonstrated the fine art of making Rice Krispy treats. We didn’t earn grades in the traditional sense; rather, we were asked to grade ourselves. Guess what? I felt that I earned an A in that class, and an A was what they entered into the system. Best class ever! It was like kindergarten, and yes, I left each class session with a happy, cozy feeling.”
In closing, dear big brother Texas, you can rest assured that it’s not like California is just GOOFING OFF down there in the basement! We are learning about freaks and Spiderman, graffiti and dirt piles, surfing and television and ALL THINGS QUEER. Plus, we feel really, really good about ourselves!

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