College often claim to develop you as a person. It’s a claim that usually gets a cynical response from me. Nonetheless, a few of the classes that took definitely changed the way that I look at the world. Some of them taught me skills that I use every day. So fellow Dopers, what was your most useful class? Which one do you think most helped form you into the person that you are today? I you didn’t go to college, what highschool class was it?
A classmate at the time had a father who worked for IBM. He came in to give a “career talk” to our class on how to become a programmer. I was very interested as I was mostly interested in computers at the time. Somebody asked him what the most important class that he’d taken in highschool had been. His response blew me away. Typing. Next semester I signed up for typing and suffered through a class that had the same makeup as your average home ec class. He was right though, I couldn’t have gotten through college without it and use it every day in my job.
I started out as a first year psych major. One of the classes that I had to take was called Research Methods and was taught by a guy named John Shaughnessy. I’d never have picked the class on my own as the subjet seemed too dry and boring to interest me. He started the first class by saying, “If I succeed in teaching you what I want to teach you in this class, you’re going to be a pain in the neck. Your friends or family are going to talk about some poll or study or report and you’re going to start asking a lot of awkward questions.” He taught us about empiricism, scientific (falsifiable) questions, sampling, confounded data, statistical signifigance and the difference between correlation and causation. He spent a fair amount of time on examples of bad science, pseudoscience and out and out statistical lies. Sixteen years later I can still clearly remember his class. It genuinely changed me. It taught me how to sift through the mountain of bullshit that the media dumps on me every week. It taught me how to be skeptical without being cynical. It taught me that the questions that you ask shape the answer that you get.
So what were yours?