The Worst Classes I Took At Penn State: “The Saccharine 16”

With March Madness and Scheduling Madness upon us, and being in the sunset of my college career, I thought it would be appropriate to orchestrate a sixteen-class bracket of the courses at Penn State wherein I was must struck with the thought, “Why am I here?”

Let’s get to the matchups:

#1 EARTH 111 (Society & Water) VS #4 L A 495 (Summer Internship)

This was a rough draw for L A 495—a summer of invaluable internship experience at a major media outlet in Manhattan really stands no chance against an obscure Gen Ed science course that stressed the importance of water in our everyday lives.  Also, EARTH 111 included a field trip to the Waste Water treatment facility in February, which was the worst day of my life.


 #2 FRENCH 003 VS #3 THEA 100

Intermediate French vs Introduction to Theatre was a tough matchup.  French is the language of romance & diplomacy (or so they tell me), but I can’t imagine anyone finds it either romantic or diplomatic to conjugate verbs in archaic tenses that don’t mean anything in English.  Theatre holds enormous social power and is one of society’s most influential art forms (or so they tell me).  At least in THEA 100 I laughed a couple times/wasn’t yelled at in a different language by a grad student instructor that was barely older than me.


#1 ASTRO 001 VS #4 PL SC 456 (Political Institutions of Latin America)

PL SC 456 was the most fascinating course I took in my tenure here at Penn State.  The professor was a sort of elderly eccentric madman genius with a taste for rum, sombreros, and Brazilian women.  ASTRO 001, on the other hand, is the basis of my theory that the university willfully tailors some bunny courses in fields of hard science and math to perpetrate an illusion of a holistic and balanced education (don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a holistic and balanced education.  But when I’m taking ridiculous courses like ASTRO 001, what’s the point of even having to take a lab science at all?).  Consequently, PL SC 456 did not stand a chance in a bracket which rewards shitty courses.


#2 COMM 150 (Film) VS #3 ACCTG 211 (Financial & Managerial Accounting)

Here’s the thing about these two courses—COMM 150 clearly belongs in this bracket as it literally meets in the State Theatre where students watch movies, which is by no means what my parents hoped I’d be doing with these semester-hours.  Conversely, Accounting 211 appears a much more practical pursuit until you learn that it is actually two different courses (Financial Accounting & Managerial Accounting) rolled into one (or at least it was when I took it), and therefore impossible.  It’s a stunning upset, but any course where you receive praise from your academic advisor for a C- is all sorts of fucked up.


#1 GEOG 10 (National Parks) VS #4 PL SC 412 (International Political Economy)

When I grow up, I want to work in fields that utilize the concepts and theories I learned about in PL SC 412.  The professor was a genius & I learned more in that course than I know what to do with.  GEOG 010, on the other hand, was an online science course about the geology of America’s National Parks.


#2 MATH 21 (College Algebra) VS #3 PHIL 119 (Ethical Leadership)

Listen—with a class like MATH 21, you’re not going to be working with distinguished professors like John Nash; you’re going to have a TA with no instructional capability because this is the same math you took in 8th grade (again, refer to my theory about bunny Gen Eds).  PHIL 119, the underdog, is a course I had to take for my Business in the Liberal Arts minor where I read Machiavelli and reached the conclusion that there is no room for ethics in business (I don’t think that was the intended outcome).  MATH 21 certainly stiff competition, but I think making me a worse/more evil person has got to move you past the first round.


#1 CAS 100C (Speech & Rhetoric) VS #4 Russian/Euro lit class from high school

CAS 100 was the much-lauded odds-on favorite going into this tournament.  Generally speaking, any course that is prescribed for every student at a massive university for well over 100 years is probably not going to have the most focused and practical application or coherent rationale for including every student.  The Russian/Euro Lit class I took in high school, on the other hand, was the most enlightening and stimulating foray I’ve ever had into The Liberal Arts; Russian/Euro introduced me to Dostysevsky, Pirandello, Garshin, Kafka, Camus, and Chekov, whereas CAS 100 introduced me to a rhetorical analysis of Chamillionare’s “Ridin’ Dirty” video.


#2 GEOG 128 (Geography of International Affairs) VS #3 PL SC 001 (American National Government)

This is closest first round matchup.  I don’t know how to describe the content of GEOG 128 because I have no idea what the hell was going on in that class.  I know we had weekly map quizzes and we also learned about people in China whose full-time profession is creating items and gold in World of Warcraft.  American National Government I’m sure is an important class for a lot of people in my major, but every couple of years I go on a bender where I watch every episode of The West Wing, so I sort of already knew everything covered in the class.


That’s all for now.  Check back next week for the next couple rounds, unless the editors at OnwardState feel this gag has run its course.

Dennis McNamara (@dennismcnamara) is a Senior looking for real-world applications for his Bracketology degree.

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About the Author

Dennis McNamara

Dennis McNamara is a senior studying International Relations. The product of a long and muddy Irish lineage, Dennis blames that sour heritage and his Boston area upbringing for the flaws in his character. The only paid writer for Onward State, Dennis has never been described as a team player as he often thinks of himself as “the smartest guy in the room.” In addition to contributing to Onward State, Dennis is also Creative Director for Full Ammo Improv. Dennis isn’t sure when he’s kidding either.

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