Quality qualitative analytic education has been lacking for some time at most Ivy League institutions and at Stanford, in my opinion. What else could possibly explain their reputation in the eyes of the public without this? Perhaps nothing at all. My experience as a head TA in the History of Art and Anthropology departments at Yale for eight years informs my perspective, as does my four years of study at Exeter and Stanford. While my anecdotal knowledge gained from this experience is not quite enough to qualify me as an expert, it is valuable nonetheless.
Publishing has gained precedence over classroom time as tenure requirements have increased. Most junior faculty members believe that they must publish or risk being replaced. Even though teacher evaluations are essential, it is simple to improve one’s rating just by providing greater service. As..
Students are attempting to make up for their disinterest by improving their self-esteem rather than their cognitive abilities. Perhaps this helps keep costs down. There are constant “You are the best and the brightest” speeches, prominent speakers are brought in, and impressive structures are constructed, yet the thoughts of those aged 18 to 21 are largely ignored. Assets like large buildings are much more reliable in the long run. They are more visually appealing in brochures.
I believe that analytical thinking may be taught most effectively through vigorous discussion and argument-driven writing. In order for students to grow as thinkers, they need space to explore new concepts and to have their existing ideas tested often. This can not be accomplished in assembly-line classrooms since it demands a lot of individual effort and thought. From what I have seen, this is a rare offering at most major Ivy League schools.
In addition, most educators today lack the intellectual foundations to be effective educators. Most of us received extremely limited educations that were founded on fleeting intellectual fashions. Academic success depends more on political connections than on original thought. “Committee commando” describes the way things are done now. Adding insult to injury, open discussion has become nearly taboo in today’s politically correct climate.
Our selection process favours applicants who will put in the time and effort to prepare for arbitrary exams, who will accept authority without question, who can sit through long periods of monotony, and who, when given the choice between being innovative and being safe, will opt for the latter.
Nonetheless, neither the students nor the teachers are totally to blame for the victory of careerism over intellectualism. The culture has finally run out of steam. Most intellectual fields, especially those in the humanities and social sciences, have reached their peak, with a few exceptions like biotechnology. Most novel concepts are utterly inconsequential. Protean jumps are uncommon (Jarrod Diamond possibly being the first in quite a few decades). I used to say that the only people I ever had genuine, thought-provoking talks with were the drivers of taxis. Despite their lack of formal education, they were not completely devoid of intellectual curiosity and the excitement that comes from exploring new ideas.
Suppose a subset of my claims holds true; if so, what do well-known universities actually provide? access to prestigious institutions like McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and Citibank. It appears that students who excel at hyper-conformity, sophisticated sycophancy, and petty pragmatism are highly rewarded in these classrooms.
The intellectual fervour was likely a bit stronger in the past, despite the fact that major schools have always spawned big businesses. Modern pupils might struggle to understand the material presented in textbooks from the 1960s. Many academic fields, from physics to anthropology, have been simplified for a wider audience. Additionally, educators would have more mental capacity for teaching. Additionally, they were still students and not “customers” as they are today. Since grade inflation was not required, students could be given a failing grade if they consistently demonstrated poor performance. Taking the ETS test is probably the only academic skill that has improved considerably in recent years.
In the period in which the Big Company is so clearly in decline would not the same be true of the Big School? Sure seems that way to me. The widespread use of brand names in educational institutions, accessories, and even food reflects a consumer culture that has become weary of making decisions based on their own preferences. When faced with such choices, they would rather delegate them to the major brands and get their immediate, two-dimensional stamp of approval. Some might argue the primary value of the Big Brand School is fetishistic, it is a highly expensive talisman we can hold onto in our increasingly desperate age.
Dr. Robert Clyne manages an academic advising service. He attended both Stanford and Yale and has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology. For five years he operated a successful Tokyo, Japan-based boutique admissions counselling service, helping his clientele gain admission to prestigious Master’s and MBA programmes in the United States and Europe. Furthermore, he produces nonfiction films.