Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What College Class Has Been the Most Useful


Kirk Douglas reading.




Dr. Mark Weiss taught physical anthropology in the late 1980s and early 1990s at WSU in Detroit and was an expert in DNA evidence when it was a newish field. His special gift was in determining the sex of sexually ambiguous corpses. Or in at least assigning a gender as best he could.

I had never enjoyed any science-related course until I took this one. And I enjoyed every minute of it. It is still useful today. I would say n0 more than a week or two goes by without some mention of fossils, or forensics, or Neanderthals that I don't think of him. What class did you take in college or grad school or high school that has meant the most to you? Especially the unexpected ones.

23 comments:

Cathy said...

(1) A college geology class that totally changed the way I look at the natural world I travel through everyday.
(2) A college humanities class that had the toughest exams I've ever taken. She'd find paintings that none of us had ever seen before, ask us to identify the artist and state three reasons why we thought it was that artist. That class really sharpened my observation skills!

Christine said...

A social work class that was focused on counseling others. The part that affected me most was how to deal with the stress of interacting with sometimes depressing, hopeless stories and people. The solution: Identify your role, then fulfill it. Is your role to fix this person's entire life? No. Fulfill your role. It's so useful to me now as a person, dealing with all kinds of sad stories and tragedies. It gives me a sense of control over my own actions in the realm of the uncontrollable.

Randy Johnson said...

Typing in high school did the most for me. Coming into my senior year, I only needed one English credit to graduate. But a minimum of three credits had to be taken.
I chose sociology and Phys Ed II, the idea being to get my three classes done early and head to my afternoon job. Unfortunately, Phys Ed Ii was only available in the afternoons and they had me there all day, with several study halls filling out the schedule.
Couldn't have that, so I switched to typing and have been glad ever since. I'm no whiz at the keyboard, mind you, but much better than I would have been.
Not a big deal compared to others here, but it's helped me do, and get, jobs over the years.

Charles Gramlich said...

Probably my Introductory Psyc course, because it persuaded me to change my major to what eventually became my career.

Michael Padgett said...

I know this is awfully mundane, but let me add another vote for the typing class I took in high school. No other single class has turned out to be as beneficial over the years. This was in the 60s, and I can't recall now why I even took the class, but once you learn you never forget, and it sure has been useful over the years and still is.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The typing is really interesting because kids today seem to teach themselves typing because of computers. I made my son learn through a book in high school when he didn't have time to take it. My husband still pecks with two fingers.
Chris-Did you expect to be a social worker? I wish I had taken a course like that. Cathy-I missed that course and I really regret never taking any art history because I could use an explanation on why some of the stuff I see in museums is art! But observational skills coming out of it... I never thought of that.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Charles-taking that same class persuaded me to change my major to something else. It was all about lab and statistical stuff and not about probing my friends's psyches.

Dana King said...

Private trumpet lessons in grad school. My teacher was as much a menotr as instructor, and took kind of a holistic approach. The manner in which he taught--using a lot of Socratic questioning--brought a lot more than just playing the trumpt into our lessons. A day doesn't go by without me doing something that was influenced by those lessons in one way or another.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Bringing that philosophy to music must be very special indeed. Nice to take so much away from it.

George said...

Back when I was a student at Marquette University, I had a free elective to fill and a friend suggested an INTELLECTUAL HISTORY course. I did a paper on Richard Hofstadter's brilliant SOCIAL DARWINISM IN AMERICAN THOUGHT and continue to love intellectual history. Currently, I'm reading Liaquart Ahamed's LORDS OF FINANCE: THE BANKERS WHO BROKE THE WORLD.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think you need to meet my husband. He writes about that sort of thing.

George said...

Bring your husband to the Indy BOUCHERCON and I'll take you two out to dinner.

pattinase (abbott) said...

George-We are hoping to come along with Megan-since it's only a few hours's drive. But Dutch Treat only.

Anonymous said...

Medical terminology. Even though I already had some hospital experience before taking this class it made a lot of things fall in to place when I was taking my paramedic training.
The language doesn't really change and isn't subject to slang. [Rhinorrhea will always be a runny nose. Rhino/nose, orrhea/arrhea will always be...well, think about it.
When I taught paramedic classes I was rather obsessive that my students could put the terminology pieces together regardless of which module of the program I was teaching.

John McAu

pattinase (abbott) said...

Medical terminology. I didn't know such a course existed outside of a med school. Oh, that would be very handy indeed.

Iren said...

Looking back I think it was teachers more so than the classes.... my Fire Sci 101 and my CJ 106 classes were eye opening and steered me to a focus on Security for my degree. My Security Prof at MSU, Dr Ken Christian and my Criminal Investigation Prof Dr. Dennis Payne (a former MSP trooper who had great stories and was a hell of a guy to boot) made a positive impression on me late in my college career..... I could go on, but let me add that almost all of the best professors I had in college had worn a badge of some kind for a while.

Scott Parker said...

In my undergraduate days, it was an upper level Early American history course. It was in this class where I finally understood what the study of history really entailed. In my graduate school days, it was my New Deal course where I really learned--the hard way--how to write a term paper. It was eye opening. All of my grad school (U. of North Texas) history professors really bore into us students the importance of good writing.

But it was my 10th grade world history class where my love of history was born. And it set me on ly life's trajectory.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And maybe it was because Dr. Weiss was such a good teacher and so enthusiastic about his subject, that he made an introductory course so compelling. (With the exception of a typing class which is useful for other reasons)
As a history major, I can attest to the fact that history teachers are the best lecturers overall. A course on Vietnam would be my second choice here.

Chuck said...

In my first semester in grad school, I took a facinating course in dna, rna, receptors, nucleotides, gene splicing, etc. I ended up with a masters in biochemistry.

Jacob Weaver said...

My junior year, elective Sociology class. My professor had us read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. The story is hard to sum up but it basically discussed modern consumerism and how it affects the planet.

I was just a college kid who thought about nothing more than beer, video games, and women but it really started to open my eyes to the world around me. I have no idea why I connected with it so strongly but I look back at that class as the moment I started to really become an adult. I still browse through the book periodically.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, I remember reading books like that one too. Specifically, ones about feminism and environmentalism. Those are the sort of books teachers usually put in your hands.
My husband makes it a point to discuss books and movies he's seeing in his classes, hoping some of those titles get picked up. His students are always amused when he sees movies like Coraline or Tropic Thunder, not imaging he inhabits the same world. Chuck-That would have been beyond my aptitude in science but it sounds great.

Gerald So said...

My most useful undergrad class was an introductory psychology class on IQ and emotion. It was my first class with a lot of assigned reading, but the teacher, Chris Eckhardt, was a grad student at the time and he taught us how to look for key points in the text. He also conducted the class in a professional and fair manner, which motivated me to do the work.

The class interested me in more psychology, and eventually I took enough classes to minor in it. Overall, the knowledge has helped me relate to people as well as get into my characters' heads.

My most useful grad class was Modern English Grammar with Edmund Epstein. We learned a more complex, but also more informative way to diagram sentences, which made me more conscious of each word's function in a sentence and how the words and the different effects of different word- and punctuation arrangements.

pattinase (abbott) said...

If you were in eighth grade when I was, you would have done it every day for the whole year. I get sick even now when I see those arrows. But you're right, it is useful stuff.