Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Education Revelation

Gosh... I never meant to "scare the bejeezus" out of a prefrosh days before camp Yale with my anti Ivy-Mythology rant. Sorry kid- you're gunna be fine.

I want to clarify something- Yale got the brunt of my ire because of what I feel is an undeserved overly-lofty status in the collective cultural conscious, and because it's the only college I went to so therefore the only one I know enough about to write long whining diatribes, and because I fancy myself an Ivyconoclast. But Yale isn't hell, or else I would have left.
Yale is simply a symptom of a larger educational epidemic...

The roots of compulsory and linearly ranked (graded) education are sordid and surprising, and I wanted to share some of my research:

In the early 1800s the King of Prussia decided he wanted a KICK ASS army. The kind of army that would do and believe whatever the hell they were told no matter how absurd. So he sent guys with guns to steal kids from their parents and forced them to go to the first official nationalized public school, where they were completely indoctrinated, lectured with unflinchingly rigid royally-approved curriculum, and were not allowed to even ask a question unless they first asked if they had permission to ask a question. This is the origin of raising your hand folks. (...I always knew that prissy bitch Ms. Cook was a fascist...)

Then the INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION in America comes along, and Horace Mann, the father of compulsory American public schooling, takes a trip over to Germany to study this tip top child-molding system. He brings it back to make sure there are sufficient cogs for the new American Industrial machine. Check out this creeptastic quote about his goals for indoctrinating, I mean
educating, the masses:

"Having found the present generation composed of materials almost unmalleable, I am about transferring my efforts to the next. Men are cast-iron; but children are wax. Strength expended upon the latter may be effectual, which would make no impression upon the former."

Public education was made compulsory on a national level, but its private investors and most influential molders like Ford Rockefeller and Carnegie were never intending to help kids achieve the American Dream. These guys needed bodies to work in factories. John D. Rockefeller, THE FOUNDER OF THE NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, said "I don't want a nation of thinkers, I want a nation of workers."

Traditional education was always intended to suppress individual creativity in favor of the collective good. And I'm pretty sure that's called socialism. 

But even after the Robber Barons kicked the bucket, this anti-child agenda held fast. Benjamin Bloom of the famed 'Bloom's Taxonomy,' which has arguably played a bigger role in shaping education than any other document, claimed outright that “The purpose of education is to change the thoughts feelings and actions of students.”

And there, in a nutshell, is the history of why you should be suspicious of traditional education.

But that isn't even close to the most interesting part. THIS is the BEST part:

In order to inspire obedience and competition amongst students, and to save time and money, holistic written evaluations were scrapped in favor of linearly ranked evaluation.  And those impersonal, maddeningly un-calibrated and mind-numbing grades, 4.0, ABCD, grades...WERE INVENTED AT YALE.

Grades. Came. From Yale.

(Not to be outdone, Harvard decides to use 100 points instead of four...)
Of course in order to impress these institutions, all the feeder schools began shaping their evaluation system to comply with these rankings. Grades trickled down from Yale to thousands of highschools and middleschools and beyond, tantalizing and torturing the brains of millions of kids for the past hundred years with their uncreative unproductive and unhelpful brand of labeling.

Holy Shit. When I first read this I fell off my couch and lay there basking in the horrifying possibility that I was a pawn in some sick cosmic cycle of elitism... I had spent 16 years perfecting a system to impress the very institution which invented the system?! WHAAAT?

I was horrified. I was furious. I was shocked that I hadn't looked into this sooner... everyone just follows the system without stopping to question its merits or relevance. Nobody tells you that the whole damn thing was concocted as a way to bludgeon your individuality to death with a cleaver and then pump your deflated corpse full of creamy sweet conformist filling.

But then after my blood boiled over I started to feel vindicated for having suspected something was fishy since the very beginning... school was a drag. I was good at it but it never made my soul sing, and I was sure there was more to life than being a good parrot. I was proud of myself for never giving in. And I decided to spread the word.

Consider it spread. 

Several very insightful commenters noted that if you try hard you can find inspiring teachers and great people at Yale, and they are absolutely totally right. In fact that's true of most places you'll find yourself educational or no.

But it just seems to me that for all the hype, for all the bullshit of applying, for all the time and for 40 grand a year for four years, your brain should be orgasmically stimulated. Call me a demanding customer, but that's the way I see it.

College is a product without a better business bureau to police it, and the most infuriating thing is that even if you don't want to buy it, it has made itself a necessity in many job circles. And with inflation, the jobs that used to go to college grads now require masters degrees, and the MA positions are only PH.D worthy, etc.

So work the system and get the most you can, but know that it's just that, a system, not an answer.

Be an Autodidact. Follow your passions. Thoughts?

(Cuz you can take the 'A's and shove them up your SS.)


  1. Very informative. I had no idea that Yale created grades.

    If Yale did create grades, then what does that say of Yale's mission? Is it just another factory intent on creating subservient, unthinking workers? For all of Yale alumna's influence, it sounds like the majority are molded to be the worker bees with higher salaries. Maybe the most powerful alumni were molded to be so from the start and Yale was just a kind of stamp of approval for the masses.

    This makes me wonder the point of even going to an American University -- besides the diploma. What's the point of education at all? What have I been subjected to? This is creepy.

    I thought that real education was saved for the elite, while the masses were forced to suffer years of worksheets, five paragraph essays, and group projects; and that if you worked hard enough and just did school well, eventually you'd be allowed into the ivory towers, where all literati and honest learners lived. But if Yale's a sham, there's almost nowhere to go.

    Before you scared the bejeezus out of me concerning Yale. Now you scared the bejeezus out of me in general. Where can I get a REAL education? And if I can't get one in college, what's the point of going to college? It sounds like getting a trade, library card and joining a book club is the way to go.

  2. For all the many flaws in the American university system, American universities are still much, much better than foreign universities outside the Commonwealth.

    Anyone who thinks Yale is careerist probably wouldn't enjoy going to a University where liberal arts majors barely exist, and where the explicit purpose of college is to churn out engineers and doctors.

    The problem isn't with the Liberal Arts model in general--it's with Yale's (and Yale students') actual commitment to that model.

  3. Funnily enough, I did find your blog through a comment you posted on (I'm a high school senior now and that means every spare moment must be spent in the hellhole of the college admissions process.) It's been interesting reading the content... I realize now the Ivy brand that I projected onto everything I read about Yale (and Harvard/Princeton). While I now have a bit of a better perspective, I'm still very confused as to whether or not I would actually like Yale.

    My whole life, I've seen my education as a ladder, with a great (read: prestigious) education at the top. I like academia and research, but at the same time I see the flaws in the system. Everything is formulaic, and if you digress from the formula you're bound for failure (unless you're a genius). I am genuinely intellectually curious, but I feel as if everything I learn and everything I research is recycled thought, recycled theses, and recyled teaching.

    High school has been filled with bullshit like that and it's disappointing to think that college may not be far off.

  4. Here's an article that you and your other readers might find interesting:

  5. I absolutely love it. I have been studying education and while I knew some about the indoctrination, Mann, Bloom and the desire to make zombie factory workers, I learned a lot...The Rockefeller as head of the education foundation and the Yale inventing grades thing really floored me.
    Thanks for making this site and for being really amusing. Good luck with your book! I will make sure to visit to read your rantings on Palin in the you think it is really her daughter's baby (the first one, not the one she is pregnant with, pretty sure that one is in the bag. haha)
    ~Ashley Roberts Yale '07, FES '08, currently part of the working-class NGO sector

  6. if you could go to any ivy, what would it be and why
    also, if you had to do college admissions again, what college would you attend, thanks and please email at

  7. Alex,

    I did go to an Ivy. I went because it was an Ivy. If I had to do the admissions process again I would look into other liberal arts schools like Wesleyan, Sarah Lawrence, and Pomona. But to be perfectly honest, I'd probably still end up at Yale because even though it wasn't the best for me, a lot of people are under the misguided impression that it's the objective best, and those people, by association, think that I'm kind of hot stuff. And for all my ranting and complaining, I am under no illusions that without the Yale name I might never have gotten this book deal in the first place. Life's kind of tricky like that sometimes. Ask me more questions and I'll be happy to reply.


  8. Hannah, you rock like a big ol' rock. Amazing how almost everything we think is normal is just a bunch of hoorah. Generally leading back to someone's control trip. I'll still be admiring Ivy League schools, though, out of habit.

    For anyone who doesn't want to go to an elitist mind-farking institution, I'm selling smart pills on my website.

  9. I agree with yours thoughts on education. In my opinion, anyone can get a free liberal arts "degree" by visiting their nearest public library and participating in active discussions on several internet forums. On another note, you must be honest in admitting that you are milking the Yale brand name: "Yale grad writing her first book..." You condemn it and expose its true worth but in reality act just like the system would want you to act, by identifying yourself with it.

  10. "Your* thoughts". Typo. :)

  11. Maybe what this says about Yale is that at some point, Yale thought it necessary to use grades.

    It's always the best idea to judge people and places, in this case universities, on what they did one hundred years ago. Because THAT is what the university is about today. And the people who ran said university 100 years ago also created some sort of life-extending device that allowed them to live forever and thus rule the university for eternity.

    Clearly,today, as we speak!, Yale is trying to create subservient servants of a system because 100 years ago Yale created grades. And since Yale is the only institution that uses grades.............

  12. Very eye opening and jaw dropping reading!!!

    Knowing what you know, do you feel a college education is worthwhile?