The Eggshell Student.

August 13, 2015

The Atlantic recently ran a thoughtful, very well-written piece by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, in which they describe and trace the causes of a disease epidemic in American higher education: the development of thin-skinned students who expect coddling and protection from any perceived offense, no matter how slight (or imaginary) and who have become expert in escalating situations from misunderstanding to hate crime. The condition is unfortunately well-known to anybody graduating college in the last few decades: everybody seems eager to be offended by anything, and instead of honest self-analysis or even meaningful conversation they call for politically correct retribution, sometimes with frighteningly real consequences. Take the authors’ example:

“[I]n 2013, a student group at UCLA staged a sit-in during a class taught by Val Rust, an education professor… In the course of correcting his students’ grammar and spelling, Rust had noted that a student had wrongly capitalized the first letter of the word indigenous. Lowercasing the capital I was an insult to the student and her ideology, the group claimed.”

Careers have been ruined with this kind of nonsense.

The authors note the danger of accepting claims of offense at face value, absent any ability to objectively quantify (or even confirm the existence of) offense. “I’m offended” has become the trump card in any campus debate, immediately foreclosing debate (for fear of giving further offense) and requiring appeasement to the offended party – regardless of the intent behind (or even existence of) the offending act. Further, they point out nothing good can come of coddling hypersensitive, entitled students – they learn that brittle feelings are precious snowflakes to which sacrifice will be made by administrators fearful of litigation, and are thus unprepared upon graduation for anything resembling the real world or an adult relationship of any kind.

Were it not for the fact the rest of us have to put up with these people, that might be poetic justice. But as things stand, these student crusaders against offense are as dangerous as child monarchs – they have immense power and use it unreasonably upon the slightest provocation, recreating scenes better left in The Crucible. To their credit, Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have both stopped performing on college campuses, citing the inability of students to take a joke.

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U.com

October 2, 2014

The new thing in higher education (though antithetical to the term) is the online university. In short, lectures available online – no campus required. These things are educationally worthless, but economically promising. Here is why.

Most people learn almost nothing academically in college which is transferable to post-grad life. (This is untrue of those entering technical professions, for whom the basic foundations of a technical education – engineering, medicine, chemistry, etc. – are necessary.) For most, there is no connection between art history, Elizabethan drama, French grammar, or literary criticism and earning a living. To be sure, some pursue their dreams: an art history degree is useful to a museum curator. But how many art history majors work as museum curators? Probably fewer than become life insurance salesmen.

But academic education is not the only – or even most important – aim of college. The most important work is in social learning and life skills development. College students become relatively independent from the ages of 18 to 22, a developmentally important period during which they learn to manage time, complete projects without guidance, budget money, and generally learn to show up when and where required. They must navigate a campus far from home and live with strangers. They join clubs and teams and learn administrative skills. These things cannot be duplicated online. Nor can classroom discussion (Skype and chat rooms are incapable of reproducing the fervor and pace of in-person debate). Nor can the experience of belonging to a physical collegiate community – football games, dining halls, etc. The “cloud” is no substitute for the campus.

That said, entirely too many people attend college. This is likely the result of the GI bill, which provided veterans a path to universities, places previously reserved (in the days before widespread financial aid) for the wealthy. As a result of that World War II generation’s having earned diplomas in record numbers, citizens and businesses alike responded by requiring college educations of themselves and their employees. The result was a nation of employers requiring diplomas for jobs which do not require college education. Does the art history major, expert in the Old Masters, need that degree to sell life insurance? Clearly not.

This university mania made college a requirement of any job worth having, generating more and more applicants to universities every year, and the resulting tuition explosion that is the logical result of increasing demand for a limited commodity (seats in entering freshman classes).

The online course, while a poor substitute for the real thing, will provide a cheap way in which many people can earn a college degree. It will not confer the same education or developmental opportunities, but it will confer the same piece of paper (because, unfortunately, employers will still require that paper). In this way, those who would perform functions unrelated to any college education can cheaply earn the credentials necessary to perform those functions, hopefully reducing the demand for on-campus learning and generating an equivalent reduction in tuition for campus-based educations.


The College Years

April 2, 2012

Your editorial staff was (Were? What if the staff numbers exactly one member? Anyway:) recently enmeshed in a discussion regarding the practical job skills with which students graduate colleges and universities. The distinction is made between the two types of institutions because they are worlds apart and unto themselves, a point which became quickly apparent during the above-mentioned enmeshing: colleges are smaller (sometimes miniscule) and keen on well-rounded intellectuals, akin to cultural finishing schools, whereas universities tend toward the large (sometimes gargantuan), and are more interested in productive graduates: those who can do a job.

There are benefits and dangers to each school of thought (specifically, that liberal arts colleges turn out yuppie free-thinkers who can’t actually accomplish much but think, while universities manufacture bland worker bees who don’t know art from an aardvark). Whichever type of education is better depends entirely on the student seeking it, what he wants to do and how he best learns.

The educational component aside, there remains a different, equally important part of a college (or university) education. Academics can be come by at most decent schools. One need not attend M.I.T. to get a good handle on math. What cannot be come by is the cultural finishing referenced previously. The college years are the most formative of any graduate’s life, and the people, places and things with which they are surrounded outside the classroom will have a much greater impact on their mature identities than will whatever coursework in Renaissance masters was available.

And so the two types of education must again be compared: regardless of the type or style of education a student might be best off pursuing, in which type of place will he best grow up? Surrounded by which type of people?

As before, the answer varies by case. What’s good for the goose can poison the gander. Still, it behoves every student, when making applications, to do his best to settle on a place filled with the type of person he wants to be, who is going the places he wants to go. As John Locke wrote: “Education begins the gentleman, but reading and good company and reflection must finish him.” Matt Damon puts it more cynically, but no less accurately, in School Ties:

“The right schools, the right grades, the right friends… these are the keys to the kingdom.”


Toga! Toga! Toga!

March 8, 2012

The Boston Globe recently dropped anchor in the controversy swirling in Hanover, New Hampshire around Andrew Lohse, an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College who opined in that school’s paper that fraternal hazing runs rampant in the great north woods, and that he was its victim.

He neglects to mention that ritualized initiation of new members by fraternities is hardly news, or that he went into the process open-eyed and informed, or that he’s given his concerns voice only after he was expelled from his own fraternity because he was arrested for possessing cocaine and attempting to intimidate a police witness.

Still, Mr. Lohse has scribbled up a stormcloud, and given people like Dartmouth theater professor Peter Hackett an opportunity to, in reference to the collegiate Greek sytem, ask the Globe things like, “Why do we still have a social system that is from the 19th century?”

Though it’s unclear what exactly – or even inexactly – Professor Hackett is talking about (social clubs? fraternal organizations? collegiate hazing? the prevalence of vomit in the 19th century?), the answer is obvious: because those social systems have produced folks a lot more accomplished than Professor Hacket.

Nelson Rockefeller, for one. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, another. Dr. Seuss. Former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson. Intellectual Jeffrey Hart. Former IBM boss Lou Gerstner. Buck Henry, Chris Miller, Budd Schulberg and Fred “Mr.” Rogers. Chief Justice Salmon Chase, Robert Reich, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Nate Fick, Norman Maclean, Robert Frost, and Daniel Webster… not to mention Michael Corleone. Good Dartmouth frat boys, all of them.

Dramatist Hackett might do worse than read the words of Jim Yong Kim, President of Dartmouth College, right below his own in that Globe piece:

“The minute you think as an administrator that by fiat you can institute culture change, the only thing you’ll get is mocking and ridicule. And at that point it will be well deserved.’’


Dartmouth Rugby Splits Opener

September 18, 2011

Dispatched from the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club wire service:

On a beautiful Labor Day weekend in Hanover, Dartmouth kicked off their fall season with a pair of tough tests against top Canadian sides Queen’s University and McGill University as part of the Dartmouth Rugby Classic, presented by Rockwood and Royall Rugby.

Although The Big Green had a tough opening game against Queen’s, losing 36-0, they bounced back nicely to defeat McGill 32-15 to get a split on the weekend. Overall, both games were good experiences that helped a 1st XV looking to break in several new starters, according to Captain and No. 8 Paul Jarvis, Darmouth Class of 2012. “I was very excited to see the team progress over the weekend,” he said. “We still have a ways to go in terms of technique in contact and winning set piece ball, but the team really showed glimpses of greatness this weekend.”

Dartmouth was back on their heel right away in their first game against Queen’s, as the opening kick off didn’t go ten meters, giving the Golden Gaels a scrum at midfield. From there, they quickly moved the ball down the field, taking it to the five-meter line in only a few phases. It was then that Jarvis got hit in the head by an opponent’s knee while going for a tackle, suffering a mild concussion.

As he lay on the field still reeling from the injury, Queen’s quickly moved the ball wide to get their first try. As the guests made the subsequent conversion, Jarvis was able to walk off the field under his own power, but was unable to return to the game. “It was immensely disappointing to get hurt so early in the season,” he said afterwards. “Fortunately it’s only the preseason, so I should be back within a few weeks at worst. In the mean time, I’ll contribute to the team in other ways and work on my recovery.”

With their captain sidelined and down a try only two minutes into the game, things somehow only got worse for The Big Green. A few minutes later, they would have a kick deep in their own territory blocked, leading to a mad scramble in the try zone for the ball. While fullback Madison Hughes, Dartmouth Class of 2015, was able to hold up a Queen’s player to prevent the try, the Golden Gaels would not be denied that easily as they deftly moved the ball wide from the subsequent scrum to get their second try and go up 12-0. They would add another only two minutes later as they once again went wide, this time from a lineout to increase the lead to 17-0. Ultimately, Dartmouth would not be able to recover from their slow start. “The first ten minutes against Queen’s evidenced our relative inexperience with one another on defense, as we conceded three fairly routine tries at the very start of the game,” said co-captain and flyhalf Bill Lehmann, Dartmouth Class of 2012. “From that deficit, it was always going to be difficult to catch up.” While the match became a much more even contest as it went on, any hopes of a Dartmouth comeback would be dashed right before halftime, when a Queen’s player caught the ball off the goalpost after a missed penalty kick and then proceeded to run it through the hands for another try to make the score 24-0. The Golden Gaels would add two more tires in the second half to bring the final score to 36-0.

The Big Green would have a much better opening, and much better go of it overall, in their next game against McGill. Where they had been stifled by the Queen’s defense the day before, Dartmouth was able to move the ball well against the Redmen. Dartmouth was especially effective when they were able to get it with pace to their speedy back three, who in turn created several line breaks. The team was able to open the scoring this way, as center Owen Scannell, Dartmouth Class of 2013 was able to hit Hughes, who took it from around the 22-meter line into the try zone to give The Big Green a 5-0 lead.

Hughes would strike again about ten minutes later, once again burning the McGill defenders on the edge to increase the advantage to 10-0. He would finish off the hat trick five minutes later, and would add on the conversion for good measure to make it 17-0. All in all, Hughes was far and away the best player of the day, tallying 22 of the team’s points (three tries, two conversions, one penalty). “It felt great,” Hughes said when asked about his performance after the game. “After yesterday’s loss, it was important for the team to turn around and perform better today. I was really happy to be able to help do that and we got the result we wanted. Hopefully we can build on this and get a winning streak together.”

While McGill was able to respond only a few minutes later with a converted penalty to make the score 17-3, the outcome of the game once would again be put out of question right before halftime. Except this time, it was the Big Green who put the game away, as prop Lawrence Anfo-Whyte, Dartmouth Class of 2013, burst through the McGill defense on a set strike move from a lineout and took it the distance to bring the lead to 24-3. That lead would prove too big to come back from for the Redmen. Although they would score two tries in the second half, good defense from Dartmouth, along with a Hughes penalty and a try by wing Kevin Clark, Dartmouth Class of 2014, would be enough to let The Big Green hold on for the 32-15 win.

Dartmouth will next be in action Saturday, Sept. 10th as they host the Granite State Cup in Hanover. The one-day tournament will see the Big Green’s 1st and 2nd XV sides taking on college teams from all over New Hampshire and Vermont. The action will kick off at 9 am at the Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse, located at 9 Reservoir Road in Hanover, 1.8 miles north of the Hanover Inn, off of Lyme Road.


Look at this.

August 30, 2011

Gabel Creative.

 NEPAL


Dartmouth Rugby: National Champions

June 6, 2011

Apologies re. the paucity of new content lately; bar examination season is at hand, the test itself it nigh, and your editorial staff’s free time is at a premium (and much put upon). Still, it’s worth noting that the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club recently bested the United States Military Academy in the final round of the national collegiate rugby tournament, televised nationally, thereby securing well-deserved recognition as the best collegiate rugby club in America. The final score was a convincing 32-10. Details available via The Dartmouth Review, whose writers enjoy more leisure than ours.