When "under water" doesn't involve getting wet

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 | | |

I had a conversation with some friends over lunch today. The term “underwater basket weaving” came up. This was in the usual context where we were talking about really easy school classes. One of my friends pointed out that actually it sounded kinda hard because it would probably involve scuba gear or at least someone holding their breath for a really long time. Fair point. Another person asked where in the world the term came from. So I had to look it up on wikipedia. Click here for the article.

Here’s the blurb I found interesting:

This generic term for an undecided major first arose during the Vietnam War era to describe the sorts of majors that many young men, who would otherwise not have entered college, undertook to escape the draft. See also: Mickey Mouse degrees.

And then as if to complicate the problem:

The University of California, San Diego's recreation department first offered an underwater basket-weaving class in 1984. Saint Joseph's College in Indiana offers this class as well, as does Simon Fraser University in Canada. Reed College in Portland, Oregon also offers an Underwater Basket Weaving class during Paideia, its festival of learning. [1]
Most recently, University of Central Arkansas actually went so far as to issue a document apparently outlining a proposed Doctorate in Underwater Basket Weaving, replete with required courses, for example "College Chemistry I and II (to determine pH of the water)", presumably satirical[2].

So I learned a little something. I’ll think a bit more before using the term. Oh yeah, and by the way, here’s the real definition:

Underwater basket-weaving is a process of making wicker baskets which involves dipping reeds or stalks of plants into (or, as the name suggests, under) water and allowing them to soak. This process will provide a very supple and flexible reed which can then be woven into a basket given enough time. The baskets then will be allowed to dry and provide a sturdy container. For example, some kinds of basket-weaving are done with the canes submerged in water from the Arabian sea to preserve suppleness. The weaver is generally not fully immersed using scuba gear or otherwise.


  1. bspeck says:

    Having taken basket weaving on two separate occasions at BYU, I can tell you that the class is NOT easy and brainless...but is, instead, WAY fun!!! Seriously, best two semesters ever.

    And to think I became a contributing member of society... :)

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