Monday, August 24, 2009

Ivy League Education

After my first day of teaching at a smaller not very well-known (at least yet, but give me a chance, it's just my first day here) university, I have no idea why people would pay huge amounts of money to send their children to super expensive Ivy League schools. Of course, Harvard and Yale grads have a famous school name to put on their CVs. But is that really worth upwards of $250,000?

As I observed my new students here, I discovered that in no way are they less knowledgeable and less talented than my Ivy League students. In some areas, their knowledge is actually greater. They are, without a doubt, more driven, hardworking and goal-oriented. I was truly surprised that not a single student whined at having written homework assigned the first day of class. (If you ever tried doing that at an Ivy League school, you surely know that huge collective moaning accompanies the word "homework" pronounced any time during the first week of class.)

My new students are so motivated to do well in their classes that two of them already cried today. Of course, I don't want my students to cry but it's great to hear them say: "I truly, really, totally want to learn. Are you sure I will be able to?" These kids are obviously less widely traveled (if at all) than my former students. Still, they have a hunger for the knowledge of other cultures that makes my job a breeze. For the first time in my life, after I finished a lecture over 20% of students raised their hands to ask a question. This is, of course, what a professor lives for.

So if you want to give your child a great higher education but can't afford to pay for an expensive, prestigious school, send them to me (or to a similar university). I promise, you will not be sorry. :-)


Anonymous said...

But of course... There is no correlation between geographical location, income level and the level of smartness. So local smart not-so-wealthy kids go to the state universities...

Peter N said...

I may not be at an Ivy League school, but my school, Brandeis, is cut from a similar mold (quite a large portion of the faculty are Harvard products). It's about 3 years since I looked at schools, considering both public schools in New York State and private schools throughout New England, but I still remember it pretty clearly. For one thing, the atmospheres of the schools, and particularly Harvard, were different. Maybe it's a New England thing, but there was something almost classical and idyllic about the New England schools (or I've just forced my mind to think that way). The state schools, on the other hand, were no where, and just felt large and depressing. At a school like Binghamton, which was my other main option from Brandeis, there were so many students that I felt as if I didn't have any space to carve out my own niche.

Clarissa said...

I've been warned so many times by so many people that I should expect a much lower level of knowledge and dedication with these students and that I should lower the level of my discourse considerably. So I followed the advice and now it seems it was a stupid advice. :-)

Clarissa said...

"there was something almost classical and idyllic about the New England schools "

-It's just appearances. :-)

But you are right in that my current school is located in the middle of absolute nowhere. It's just too funny. :-)

Teaching makes me feel almost drunk, so everything seems funny. :-)

Anonymous said...

I am so happy for you! I am sure that your students will surprise you with original thinking. I am dying of jealousy.

The difference between public and private schools is obviously a matter of money, but also of attitude, of culture. Many students, professors, and administrators at prestigious private universities/colleges give a daily performance on campus. These people act up the private school fantasy. The campus constitutes a theatrical space to create an idyllic atmosphere.

As visitors, prospecting students of future employees, we want to believe in that atmosphere. We consume it. We may want to create it. The mystique soon vanishes though. When friends and relatives visit me at my prestigious Ivy League school, they all want to buy a university t-shirt, they all want to see students reading in a library room, with wooden chairs and green/neon table lamps (do not ask me what that is, but many of them are looking for neon library lamps with green glass!). It is almost an Hollywood-like experience for some visitors. Of course, my visit includes the darker side of my Ivy League university. Friends and relatives hardly want to buy a t-shirt at the end of their visit.


Clarissa said...

You are so right! I agree with every word. I still can't explain to my parents why I have no enthusiasm for my new diploma and why I don't want to buy an expensive Yale frame for it.

Anonymous said...

At the undergraduate level, many types of institutions can provide excellent education. There are a few requirements: 1. students who are motivated, with a sprinkling of original thinkers and brainiacs among them, and 2. conscientious faculty with average to excellent teaching skills. Major pluses are excellent libraries or library consortia, good student union and generally good architecture (places to hang out) and landscaping encouraging students to interact rather than hop in the car and go home instantly (for commuter schools), and some university community activities such as performing arts, speaker series, topical movie series, etc.

Anonymous said...

10:49 was me, NancyP.

Clarissa said...

Nice to see you here, NancyP. Especially now that we are neighbors.

I still haven't figured if there are nice places on this campus for students to hang out. In general, I'm very pleased with their level of knowledge and interest.

Anonymous said...

I want to go to a prestigious university.

Funny enough, the state university closest to where I live is one of the top fifty schools in the US.
It's also one of the top ten medical schools.

You can have both.