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Sunday, Sep. 21, 2014

College 101

Posted Saturday, August 23, 2008, at 3:07 PM

In 2001-2006, I taught computer courses at Ozarka College in Melbourne and Ash Flat, Arkansas. If you ignore the compensation factor, it was a rewarding experience.

Another new school year is upon us. Young men and women, with minds of mush, will be heading to college campuses across the country to learn as much as necessary to pass exams, and participate in extracurricular activities such as political activism, sports and binge drinking.

I fondly remember my college years, when the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers actually went to the Rose Bowl and some beatnik folksinger named Bob Zimmerman, who later changed his name to Bob Dylan, was playing in a coffee house near campus.

In those days we actually had to know how to read books, do math without a calculator, do research without a computer, write complete sentences and use a dictionary as a spellchecker.

It seemed like just getting into college back then was quite a struggle. I don't remember for sure, but as I recall my old college entrance exam went something like this:

HISTORY: Describe the history of iconoclastic secular movements from their origins to the present day, concentrating particularly, but not exclusively, on their social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia and North America. Include quotes in any ancient language except Latin or Greek.

BIOLOGY: Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 50 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effect on polar ice caps, migratory patterns of snow geese and abstract art.

PHYSICS: Explain the nature of matter. Include an evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics on science and proof of the Theory of Relativity using Euclidean geometry.

ECONOMICS: Develop a plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: the Trilateral Commission, film noir, Japanese Baseball, string theory.

SOCIOLOGY: Explain the sociological problems that might accompany the end of the world. Construct an experiment to test your theory.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: Define information. Define technology. How do they relate? Why? Create a generic algorithm to optimize all managerial decisions. Program the algorithm in assembler language utilizing a relational database of random binary numbers. Assuming you had a Cray Supercomputer supporting 1024 terminals accessing your algorithm, design a graphic user interface component and code all necessary control programs in Pascal.

PHILOSOPHY: Outline the development of human thought. Estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.

EPISTEMOLOGY: Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your position.

ART: Using the three crayons on your desk, accurately recreate Leonardo Da Vinci's portrait of the Last Supper in the foreground against a background of the Wrath of God depicted in early cubism form.

MUSIC: Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with an oboe and a kettle drum.

CHEMISTRY: Assume you had a bottle of canola oil, 3 oz. of cinnamon, a pint of vermouth, a walleyed pike, two paper clips and a roll of duct tape. Design a device that will explode at 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

BOTANY: Set up an experiment to communicate subliminally with a turnip and a kumquat. Describe in detail the esoteric differences between turnips and kumquats, including language barriers and political protocols.

MEDICINE: You have been provided with a box cutter, a teaspoon, some gauze, and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have fifteen minutes.

ENGINEERING: The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed under your desk, along with an instruction manual printed in Swahili. In five minutes, an angry lion will be released into the room. Take whatever action you deem necessary.

ASTRONOMY: Define the Universe. Give three examples.

GENERAL KNOWLEDGE: Describe in detail. Be brief, concise and specific.

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Quote for the Day -- "College is where you go to get as many bad decisions out of the way as possible before you must deal with the real world." Bret

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Boldly Going Nowhere
Bret Burquest
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Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist for The News (2001-2007) and author of four novels. He has lived in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis and the middle of the Arizona desert. After a life of blood, sweat and tears in big cities, he has finally found peace in northern Arkansas where he grows tomatoes, watches sunsets and occasionally shares the Secrets of the Universe (and beyond) with the rest of the world.
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