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A user's guide to gut courses

September 13, 2007, 5:09 am

A “gut” course is one where a student can spend little to no time working on anything substantive and still get an A or (at worst) a B in the course. These courses are everywhere — even at Yale, where a senior has written up a guide to Yale’s gut courses that is both wickedly funny and sadly accurate. Here’s the whole thing quoted at an article at Phi Beta Cons. I had a very hard time picking my favorites, but here are some excerpts.

A gut course from the astronomy department:

planets and stars – Generally speaking everyone has been wasted at some point and stared blankly at the sky and been like, sh**, space and sh** is sweet. And then you get to Yale and you find out that you can take astronomy to meet requirements and that its not hard math or anything and you think this is the sweetest thing ever.

Even computer science has gut courses:

computer science and the modern intellectual agenda – Yeah, I read the title to this and asked myself “uhh, what is the modern intellectual agenda?” too. This may get the award for the most random mix of subjects to the point that there is pretty much nothing to say. It’d be like having a class on pornography in the boer war. Seriously, there cannot be more than like 5 sentences to say about that in the universe. If you are willing to really have no clue what you are getting in to, this looks like a great gut.

And of course, there are gut math classes (emphases added):

geometry of nature:Haven’t you ever been itching to know the volume and area of random plants and animals as you walk through the park on a sunny day? Do you get high and wonder where the centroid of the tree you cant stop staring at is? I didn’t think so, but seriously, it is hard to find really worthless QRs at Yale University as most of the time math problems have some sort of practical application. This may be one of the few glorious exceptions.

fractal geometry: This gut course is just a slightly more famous version of the class right above. Stoners and artsie kids have been doing this as their QR for years before going back to their preferred English and Anthro majors. I think fractal geometry is like, learning about snowflakes and stuff, or maybe those “magic eye” pictures where if you squinted you could suddenly see dolphins “breaching”‘ the surface or something? I dont know, but we all have been getting bored and drawing random patterns in our notebooks since like 1997, so now we might as well do it constructively right?

I oversaw an independent study on geometry in nature a few years ago, and I have to say it is fiendishly hard to make something other than a gut course.

And if you want your math requirement out of the way without the math, don’t worry — there’s always the philosophy department:

first order logic: This is not really a gut class at all, but it is perhaps the only QR class that really only peripherally involves actually doing math. Basically, you do really wacked out versions of those proofs from 8th grade geometry. Sh**, ive even heard learning this stuff is useful for the “LSAT”s, and it is a pretty popular choice among the more intellectual circles at the university. It isnt really a Zeta Psi Rad Party type crew that shows up to this class, but still it isnt half bad. [emphasis added]

Finally, what would a gut course list be without a little psychology? This one has probably the most insightful comment about ridiculous course names that I’ve heard:

statistics as a way of knowing: I would figure that the follow up class, “Statistics as a way of stuff other than knowing” is actually slightly easier than this gem with an absolutely idiotic name, bur seriously, this cannot be very hard. It is probably really just “statistics” because adding “as a way of knowing” to the title of a class is sort of like when gillette adds “extreme” or “turbo” to a razor. Sure, it makes it slightly cooler, but it is the exact same thing as it was before. Regardless, this cannot possibly be hard. If it is, that sucks dude…

Somebody put the guy who wrote this on the curriculum committee for the university!

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