succumbing to peer pressure

Sunday, November 06, 2005

From the books section of today's Times, regarding "My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student," by Rebekah Nathan and "Binge: What Your College Student Won't Tell You," by Barrett Seaman:

At any point in America's long collegiate history, it seems safe to say, only a tiny percentage of students have been serious scholars, many of them in the hard sciences, which both Ms. Small and Mr. Seaman tend to neglect.

Ouch. Actually, double ouch. I know I'm in a seriously self-selected group since the vast majority of my friends chose to pursue advance degrees, thus, presumably, placing them in the 'tiny percentage' of 'serious scholars,' but to so casually brush aside the humanities as being particularly bereft of serious scholars without even breaking stride? And how many people read over that sentence this morning without choking on their coffee? Perhaps I'm naive, but I really did feel like I had found 'my people' at Case, meaning people who were genuinely intellectually curious, about everything from engineering to art (and, despite uttering the phrase, you are a graduate student, right? more times than I'd like this semester, I feel pretty similarly about Emory). Sure, there are ways to avoid learning no matter where you go to school, but I find it hard to believe that scholars are really so much in the minority.


Anonymous Sid said...

Well, this is the cornerstone of the Ivory Tower complaint: academics become so insulated within their own communities, it becomes difficult to get any perspective as to how their viewpoints match up to the rest of the country/world, or even to understand their place in the greater machine of society.

Graduating from college has only recently become a real necessity for people, and even that's too great a hurdle for a lot of the masses. Graduate school? Hah!

Learning's just taking a low priority in the national consciousness. The writing's on the wall with things like "intelligent design" or the quality of abstinence-only sexual deterrance eduation.


11:50 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

But I don't think that was necessarily what the article was saying, or what I was saying. Rather that, within the group of people attending college, my personal experience was that the subgroup of people actually there to learn was not as small of a minority as the article seemed to imply.

I agree that the cornerstone of the Ivory Tower complaint is a loss of touch with the 'everyman/woman.' Like all generalities, I think there are times when this is true and times when it is merely a convenient shorthand for the uneducated to voice their fear/mistrust/jealousy of the educated.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Sid said...

Clearly you were not part of the Greek system. :-)

Or anywhere near the undergrad business majors. A college degree has become today what a high degree was twenty years ago... a qualification necessary for a job that provides a minimum standard of living. Is it really so surprisingly to think that there are plenty of people out there who treat it like a high school degree? Who just want to get "through the system" so they can get on with real life?


2:54 PM  

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