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A Class By Itself 

One of our area's fine institutions of higher learning -- it actually doesn't matter which one -- has just released its catalog of course offerings for next fall.

Of special interest in this quarter were the listings for the non-credit courses, those exercises in continuing education which are currently marching under the banner of "community outreach." Doubtless because there is federal funding under Sen. Kennedy's education bill for anything containing the word "community."

Now, I most cheerfully endorse the idea that education is the pearl of human existence, though it must be granted that some of its benefits are murky indeed. And none murkier than some of the programs designed to attract the gentleman loafers, professional unemployed, erotic vagrants, fugitives from the spousal abode and assorted hangers-on-to-the-parental-sofa who lust for the right to endlessly announce, "I'm taking a few courses this semester. Can't ever stop learning, you know. Might as well close the coffin if you do."

What sort of learning? Well, Electro-Sensitivity Therapy has taught me that all things are equal or at least relative, that one person's urinal is another's porcelain architecture. So I will simply list some of the fall semester's "community outreach" course offerings without personal or wiseass remarks.

The Art of Rubber Stamping XXDD303, Picture Framing XXLL170, Private Investigation Preparatory Course XXBV100, Outboard Motor XXNN680, Silk Wedding XXLL094 and Instant Piano for Hopelessly Busy People XXFF617.

These were but a few listings in next fall's catalog of continuing ed, and when I finally set it down, I could only mumble a thanksgiving that we live in a land so attuned to productively addressing our leisure needs that no rubber stamper or private dick or busy piano player or corsage maker need fear the scorn of opportunity. It's all there in continuing ed, and you don't have to lick the teacher's Birkenstocks to pass the final!

After a time, I picked up the catalog again and began to jot down some ideas for courses that were not offered but would likely be interesting to persons enrolled in some existing courses. It must have been the incipient educator in me.

Candor demands that I pause here to confess that one of the fragmentary reveries that float in and out of my consciousness like a water hyacinth choking a swamp is this one: that I am a teacher of antiquity, like Plato or Aristotle, strolling Arcadian grounds sprinkled with colonnades and statuary like the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Surrounded by worshipful pupils who hang on my every word. Mostly 18-, 19- and 22-year-old girl pupils ...

So here goes. The current classes are in parentheses and my logically linked proposed courses and their descriptions follow:

(Decorative Oxy-Acetylene Welding XXLL701) Body Art Electric Arc Welding XXLL 705. Techniques and tools for high-intensity tattooing and the limitations of these processes. As an introduction to self-initiated projects, students are required to obtain a new tattoo during the semester. No liability is assumed.

(Foot Reflexology XXSS966) Spleen Reflexology XXSS1066. Prerequisite: complete credulity regarding non-Western healing techniques.

(Party Foods XXLL310) Party Foods Acquisition XXLL330. Learn how to place yourself in the position of "enabler" for those who are addicted to hosting. There will be a practicum at the end of the course: students will be required to crash a wedding reception and consume 3 pounds of hors d'oeuvres before being evicted.

(Qi Gong: Ancient Healing Art for Arthritis XXMM559. Or Feng Shui or Chi Kung, etc.) Chu Tish Ying XXMM560. Translates as "bamboo butterfly shadow." Learn to shape this most Oriental growth into the insect that best represents the celestial tao and create a shady spot in your home. The perfect meditation tool.

(Investment Training for Women XXLL101) Investment Training for Hermaphrodites XXLL201. Money strategies for men and women (combined), variable annuities for very variable investors, planning for radical lifestyle changes.

There were listings for Ballroom, Cajun and Flamenco dancing, but some areas of bodily expression have been shortchanged. Ergo, Introduction to Hottentot Dancing 101. Learn alignments, turns, hand- and footwork that will make you a master of technique in sub-Saharan dance contests! Also learn lip-piercing and loincloth design. Prerequisite: basic human locomotion or Cha Cha 102.

There are offerings in French, Spanish and Italian as well as Sign Language I and II. I would combine some and offer Sign Language in Italian XXV680. Learn common nonverbal signals of this great Mediterranean culture: the cuckold's horns, the under-the-chin finger flick, the finger drawn slowly across the throat. Taught by feisty Sicilian grandparents.

And one fun elective: Manatee Stroking XXLC714. Experience the ultimate in interspecies relationships as you swim in proximity to 1,500-pound gentle giants in the warm waters of the Industrial Canal. Prerequisite: swim trunks.

There it is, my plan for a curriculum for the Virgets Community Enhancement College and Parking Garage, aimed at those who realize learning is a lifetime job.

Sen. Kennedy, do you think there will be any federal funds available?

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