The Case for Bird Courses


Don’t you know ’bout the bird
Well ev’rybody knows that the bird is a word.
– Surfin’ Bird

The AMS recently published a survey about what Queen’s students think of bird courses. This itself is worth celebrating, because it’s probably the first time the AMS did anything useful if you don’t count their decision to re-open the Queen’s Pub (which you shouldn’t since it was their fault it closed in the first place).

Anyway, the study found that 88% of Queen’s students surveyed said that they “actively seek out electives that would likely maximize their GPA, regardless of the quality of the course or whether they’re interested in it or not”. We were shocked. How could this be? Why could people possibly look to get the best grades they can at a school that rewards them almost exclusively for their grades?

In order to find out why students think this way, we went to an Ancient Humour class to ask students why they were taking such a silly course. I mean I’m sure there are some people who want to make old people laugh (is that what the course is about?). In any case, we interviewed Jeff, one of the six people who actually showed up to class.

“I mean, if I’m to become an investment banker consultant directing manager bossman at Goldman Sachs, I need a high GPA,” said Jeff (COMM ’19), who was wearing sunglasses outside even though it was 9 PM. “You’ve heard of Goldman Sachs, haven’t you? They only take the best you know. And besides, I gotta take these easy courses to have time to drink and party. It’s what I’m known for and I gotta keep up my reputation! I mean it’s how I network!” When we asked him what an investment banker actually did, he smiled sheepishly, said that he was late for his next class, mumbled something else incoherent, and then walked away.

We talked to a few other students over the following days. “Oh sure, there have been many people in the past who have gone to university and been inspired and challenged and transformed,” said Sarah (Arts ’17), “but I need to get into law school because I realized halfway through my third year that my degree in Sub-Saharan film expressionism isn’t going to get me any jobs. And you know, if taking History of Popular Music is what it takes to turn my GPA from a 3.3 to a 3.32, then I think it’s definitely worth spending the tuition to get it.”

We then asked her what she did with what she learned in History of Popular Music. She just shrugged saying, “Oh I didn’t really care about what I was learning. I just needed the A+. I mean now I can tell people about Elvis and Count Basie, but mostly I didn’t even have to show up to class! Definitely the best 600 or so dollars I ever spent.”

Well, there you have it! If you want to get good at university, follow these steps.

First, write up a list of everything you’ve ever been interested in and everything your ambitious, enthusiastic high school self wanted to explore and learn in the great hallowed halls of university.

Next, toss that shit in the trash, because your interests aren’t going to get you into med school or law school. Your grades are, and you better hope your grades are as close to 4.3 as possible, no matter how much bullshit you have to swallow. Graduate program admissions people are robots – they only see numbers.

Thirdly and birdly, find the birdiest bird courses to have ever graced the schedules of the Queen’s student body. You want courses where exam solutions are shared in broad daylight, where you get a bazillion marks for “trying”, where the professor spends Week 11 and 12 making the class watch third-rate French movies, and you definitely want the courses where you get attendance marks or marks for raising your hand to spew some painfully sycophantic answer to a question that your professor posed. Hey, isn’t that question sort of similar to that question user profmoneypoonslayer posted? Who cares! You know that the answer is always that capitalism is bad!

Fourth, check SOLUS obsessively in the days following your “final exam” to find that A+ neatly printed next to the course title. Do you find yourself not really knowing what you did or learned in the dozens of hours that you spent in that class? Are you vaguely disappointed with the fact that you just spent a bunch of your parents’ money on a course where you didn’t learn anything you cared about? Don’t worry about it! You my friend, just earned a 4.3 in that course. You have just achieved what every university student wants. You have made Principal Woolf proud. You have made your parents proud. You have become a better person by getting that 4.3. And most importantly, you have cemented your spot in med/law school. Enjoy putting off your inevitable adulthood for a few more years.