Best In Class 

Where local college students want to be.

"They say the best classes go to the fastest/Sorry, Mr. West, there's no good classes/Not even electives, not even prerequisites/You mean I missed my major by a coupla seconds?"

On his new CD, rapper Kanye West sums up the horror of course registration, that free-for-all of academic ambition that pits college students against each other for a few available spaces in each class.

It's a horror many know. "I remember registering in a huge auditorium and getting absolutely nothing," says Glen Munson, now an award-winning registrar at Rhodes. Munson designed a system of advance registration that responds to student demand, adding sections where necessary.

So, what are these much-desired classes? Deans, registrars, and faculty from three local universities told us what classes top the list at their institutions. What we found is that college is still the way most of us remember: a place for young pagans to discuss sex, bodily excretions, and the finer points of public speaking.

Rhodes College's Most Popular Class: Sex and Gender in the New Testament -- a study of New Testament passages pertaining to sexual activity.

Why? "I think the boys probably take it because they hear the word sex and the girls take it because they hear the word gender," says Ashley Kundif, a Rhodes sophomore.

Runner-Up: Astronomy -- an introduction for nonscience majors.

Why? "It seems almost like we're hard-wired to feel curious about the stars. We're all pagans at heart," says Jay White, the professor who teaches the class. Christian Brothers' Most Popular Class: Christian Ethics -- a critical investigation of the theological convictions grounding Christian understandings of doing what is right.

Why? "It's a popular class because we discuss a lot of hot-button issues: the death penalty, homosexuality, and war," says Professor Peter Gathje. "The students get very excited to discuss issues of sexuality."

Runner-Up: Parasitology -- the study of the morphology, taxonomy, life cycle, distribution, pathology, and control of parasites of man and other animals.

Why? "I think it's a morbid fascination with the things that cause explosive diarrhea," says Dr. Stanley Eisen. "This is a class you really experience. When I teach about ticks and lice, I can watch my students scratching themselves. When I teach about flukes and tapeworms, some of them start to lose weight." University of Memphis' Most Popular Class: Introduction to Film -- a comprehensive study of the form's function and a history of film art.

Why? "A lot of students sign up because they think it's going to be easy, eating popcorn and watching movies," says Professor Danny Linton, "and they end up getting an F."

Runner-Up: Oral Presentation -- principles and practices of basic oral communication.

Why? "I think students like this class because ... you can stand up and speak without fear of your peers booing and throwing things," says instructor Andre Johnson.


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