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All The Advantages Of An Ivy League Education Minus Those Creepy Secret Societies

April 21, 2009

I may be going through a quarter-life crisis.  Out of nowhere I’ve started to feel that despite an education at Emory, I am for the most part completely full of shit or at the very least embarassingly ill-informed.  Supply and demand graphs or budget curves terrify me, as would a discussion on Kant (luckily, and unsurprisingly, a highly-theoretical low probability event) despite degrees that suggest the contrary.

Basically what I’m saying is that I probably wasn’t a serious enough student in college; my grade-inflated bachelor of arts degree signals to future employers (more accurately, law schools) that I have expertise in economics, yet I feel that I have at best a lay understanding of the subject.  I probably could have spent a little less time on YouTube and Facebook, and actually read the required materials.

Luckily, I have stumbled upon an amazing site that, with a little more dedication and intellectual curiosity, really plugs the gap from an incomplete college education.

The site is called Academic Earth.  It compiles lectures given at 6 of the top universities in the US (Berkeley, MIT, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford) on subjects and lecturers ranging from Bill Bradley’s take on Russian-American relations and Larry Page and Eric Schmidt discussing Google’s legal issues with the DMCA.

My favorite feature takes advantage of an initiative called OpenYale, which videotapes entire courses at that college so that those without access to higher education, say in rural areas or overseas, can educate themselves on the cheap.  This led my buddy Rhett to point out that the Ivies really are “all about the degree on the wall.”  If you can get the same education for free, the evidence pretty clearly points to prestige/opportunity over education quality as the reason to attend such a place.  (Ok, maybe this is overstating the case a bit.)

I just think it shows that it’s much more about what you put into it that matters.  Probably my quarter-life crisis (bear with me, this is therapeutic) is a symptom of my undergraduate programs’ focusing on either survey-style courses, or highly specific seminars with little practical application.  That and all the beer and wings.

Regardless, I’m a pretty big fan of Paul Bloom’s Introduction to Psychology course at Yale, which I’m going through right now to enhance my understanding of behavioral economics.  Instead, I’ve learned that I don’t need my brain to vomit or get an erection.  So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

I’m also curious in the comments: has anyone else ever felt this way about what they got/are getting out of college?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Gray permalink
    April 21, 2009 1:47 pm

    You think you’re uncertain about your academic knowledge in the real world… try going to art school.

  2. April 21, 2009 5:44 pm

    Try majoring in American Studies and linguistics. I know exactly how you feel. I can’t articulate the problem with cultural studies right now but I know that for me, at least, it’s a highly solipsistic discipline where you spend more time pretending to know what you’re talking about than learning anything valuable. And then to go into graphic design, it’s like, what the hell?

    But I still think you pick up some ambient intelligence points just going to all these classes, and certain skills you pick up / refine there – persuasion, bullshitting, dating – are always going to be useful no matter what you do for a living.

  3. April 21, 2009 7:05 pm

    @ Gray: I was about to say that it is impossible to bullshit art, then I remembered all the times I’ve been to modern art museums and decided it best be left unsaid.

    @Matt: Don’t career offices usually say, the invariable optimists that they are, “It doesn’t matter what you major in!” Is that a subtle hint that any particular major prepares you for the real world as much as another, which is to say, zero?

    Unmistakably, college is as much about the extended period of ‘socialization’ ostensibly necessary to a well-balanced life. Undergraduate education has become just another layer of preparing us for a new, undefined, final preparatory pursuit, a debt-fueled excuse to be irresponsible for 4 years without any serious consequences.

    Actually, when put that way, complaining about it seems a bit silly doesn’t it?

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