Monday, August 4, 2008

reYALEity check: comment extravaganza

Since my Yale posting garnered an unprecedented amount of comments, I've decided to distill a little 'best of,' because I thought my responses were clever, and I want you guys to see them, and I know the only people who read entire comment chains are… well me and my father.

If you don't care about this topic enough for a second helping then 1) who the hell are you? 2) piss off and 3) I love you I need you I swear I didnt mean it, check back tomorrow for a fun Edinburgh Fringe Festival post.

Here's my point from the previous post distilled:
Yale is nothing special. Gucci sunglasses shade your eyes whilst shouting “Hey you! Guess what? I’m fucking loaded!” but they don’t work better than the crappy plastic ones at the gas station.

Inquisitive Oliver, reasoning that there must be something about Yale that justifies its mythical status in his and the collective mind, like maybe a magical Hogwartsesque stone that sneezes gold and grants career wishes, is my first commenter:

OLIVER LI: Besides name, do you believe there is anything outstanding about Yale that sets it apart from other schools?

ME: Well Oliver, in short, NO.

In long, Yale has a hugeass library and gym and attracts a lot of famous people. Everyone from the president of China to the director of the biggest budget porn movie of all time visited during my time at Yale and I shook hands with fucking Paul McCartney at my graduation. But that doesn't mean, and I cannot emphasize this enough, that those famous people give a good goddamn about you or your education.

Then I was pleasantly surprised to receive... a rebuttal! I have always dreamed of being part of a community of insightful writers who hurl witty insults at one another over fancy cocktails and even wrote as much in my blogger profile but never imagined anybody would care enough to respond to my bitter blatherings. Anonymous defends Yale:

ANONYMOUS: Wow, really? Yale was the best thing that happened to me…I felt safe, surrounded by beauty every day, and in love with every person and conversation I had…

ME: In love with every person and conversation you had?... what kind of happy pills are you on, and where can I get some?

Maybe the roving drunken bums, the plethora of horrendously boring intro classes, and the soul-sucking icefest that was October through March in New Haven were figments of my imagination. It wouldn't be the first time I thunk myself into a funk, and of course everyone is entitled to their opinion no matter how suspiciously saccharine I think it might be... (you giddy grinning freak)

ANONYMOUS: And the teachers -- really, you didn't find anyone who sat down and took the time to figure out how best you learned?

ME: I would certainly never claim that every single teacher at Yale is a twat, but for me at least, out of the 37ish classes I took I had:

  • 2 amazing teachers
  • 4 good teachers
  • 9 teachers who were amusing simply in their utter fucking craziness (including the guy who got fired for faking his PhD, the guy who called the Mexicans in my class 'shifty bean lovers,' the raging uber feminist who permanently replaced the term 'man' in her personal lexicon with 'penis wielder' and the digital video professor who showed us the epic film he made featuring him, naked on a hospital bed, shaving his entire body while he wept and then jacked off into the pile of collected hair clippings. Seriously. WTF.)
  • 6 totally vanilla blah teachers
  • 10 teachers who were the temporary bane of my existence due to their incompetence and
  • 6 teachers who, if I were stuck on a desert island with, I would delay every rescue plan just for the opportunity and excuse to tie them to a tree while warthogs and fireants ravaged their flesh as I forced them to listen to their own horrendously awful lectures for hour after cerebral mutilating hour before I gave them the choice between completing every reading essay quiz and test on their own syllabus or having a wild monkey feast on their eyeballs to which they would undoubtedly choose the latter.
So while this doesn't amount to a torturous education, what I'm saying is that Yale isn't utopia. I expected, in my prefrosh naivety, for most classes to be fucking stellar illuminating experience. That's what Yale told me.

ANONYMOUS: I had more than one lecturer or young professor reach out and engage me, and e-mail me to get coffee and talk about my paper, or just life. I am certain this would not have happened anywhere else -- definitely not in a state school with enormous classes and possibly not at other Ivies…

ME: Now this really gets my proverbial goat. I have to assume you are being hyperbolic. Right? I'm glad you had close teacher relationships, as did I, but it's that kind of blatant elitism that puts a mindfuck on kids going into application hell. "Well shit" they think "no teacher will ever want to talk to me if I don't go to Yale!" I have to believe, based on simply knowing more than a few people who are not Yalies, that meaningful and profound educational relationships have developed in the not-so-hallowed halls of universities all over the country, even *gasp!* in a state school or two.

But perhaps out of stubbornness or a desperate need to justify their sometimes unfounded and usually unbridled Yale Bulldog pride, Anonymous returns:

ANONYMOUS: another thing - I never could have afforded another non-ivy liberal arts school, like wesleyan, because those schools mostly have limited financial aid.

ME: Awesome. I'm jealous. My financial aid was fine, but I am now solidly in the hole. Plus, if I had chosen to go to Vassar, Sarah Lawrence, Ithaca, Con College, or Wes, I would have been paid a few grand a semester just to attend. That's right- THEY WOULD HAVE PAID ME.

So while the Yale package isn't shit it certainly isn't the top, especially for a university which is SO FUCKING WELL ENDOWED they could give the Hubble telescope a golden shower of Ivy League excellence.

And then, much to my titillation, I get my first troll!

CRIMSON: Yale = Harvard rejects

Hilarious. You truly have a saber wit.

A few hours later, in a faux-nonchalant attempt to prove his Harvard diploma actually does make him special and important, Crimson returns with some more stunning feats of brilliance…

CRIMSON: If I could make a neutral observation, you should put more time in your writings, so they are more coherent, and be a bit more balanced….

ME: First of all, I think you need a dictionary. Your observation is not “neutral” if you introduce yourself by condemning 15,000 people you’ve never met as rejects in the face of your Crimson godliness.

CRIMSON: And I think your blog suffers from organisation and it stinks of a student who was slightly wronged by Yale.

ME: Well you’re right there bucko, I was “slightly wronged” by Yale. I think every negative review stems from this sense of wronging, from feeling that something didn’t live up to its own hype, wasted your time and money, or pissed you off enough that you want to make sure other people don’t go in with the same high expectations. That’s what a real review is. If I were going to pad my review with all pros instead of cons I would be the fucking Princeton Review who (if you couldn’t tell by the title) has been lavishing Ivy League balls with big wet tongue kisses since its inception.

As to the claim that I’m incoherent, your point is actually well taken and I agree I may need to edit and streamline a bit more. However, the blog is called a “mess of motley musings” and not “an alphabetized spreadsheet of doctoral theses” so what the hell did you really expect?

ANONYMOUS #2: I find all this very intriguing and it has opened my eyes. I am currently about to be a senior in high school choosing universities, and having a really hard time!...Any advice?

I am thrilled to discover another Anonymous has put in their 2 cents before I get a chance to answer and it's a pretty good post albeit pithy.

ANONYMOUS #3: "education" is overrated. If you're going to a university for "intellectual stimulation", chances are you won't find it, regardless of where you go. Choose whichever school gives you the most money. If you have a full ride to a state school, go for it. I wish I had.

There are some exceptions: if you plan on going into a field where reputation/connections will make/break your careeer (investment banking at UPenn), or where you're learning a physical skill (singing, dance at Juilliard), it might be worth it to spend the extra bucks.

ME: I think ANONYMOUS 3 has made an excellent point, and one which is probably difficult to hear for those who are drowning in application propaganda. As Americans in the age of the internet we’re all looking for instant gratification, the quick fix, and a snazzy college name seems like the fast track to inspiration-nation, but the truth is that if you want to do something truly original with your life you’re probably not going to find a lot of support at ‘top’ colleges.

What you will find in college are lots of course requirements and homework which seems maddeningly similar to the bullshit timewasting you had to put up with in highschool in the name of getting into college. And if that doesn't piss you off, then your spirit has been completely broken just like traditional education always intended for it to be. Don't get me wrong, college is not all a time waste; you will find some great teachers, but you will find great teachers anywhere. My favorite teacher of all time never got her masters in education and would not have even been allowed as an associate assistant professor at Yale letalone a tenured one.

College is not the best or the only way to learn. Do you like music? Well the Beatles couldn’t read music notation so fuck music theory, kids. Like money? Richard Branson rebel billionaire didn’t even graduate highschool. I’m not saying school isn’t important, but I’m saying that it’s not as important as it seems right now, and in this spectacular age of plenty you’ll be able to learn everything you need to by being pugnacious and passionate and having access to freakin' Wikipedia- no Ivies required.

“But people who go to top schools make more money, right?!!” Actually, all the studies that claim this are laughably biased because they don’t take into consideration the fact that even if Harvard lets in 1000 brilliant kids and then does nothing but play pattycake with them for four years, Harvard will still get credit when the kids go on to major corporate ass-kicking whether or not they had anything to do with it.

One of my favorite studies which addresses this flaw is by Al Krueger and proves that people who go to ‘top’ schools make JUST AS MUCH money as people who got into those schools and turned them down, implying that it’s NOT the school that makes the success story. ‘Top’ schools identify people who are go-getters and those people will be success stories whether or not they choose attend.

In the grand scheme of things, if you’re a smart hardworking creative person, IT WILL MAKE NO DIFFERENCE what school you went to. Have faith in yourself.

So what to do? Figure out what you might be interested in and sit in on lots of classes to see what actually excites you instead of what sounds really prestigious. Use your detective skills and look around campus- are there people who you would want to spend time with? Are there opportunities which will satisfy and nurture you intellectually and creatively? Are students encouraged to explore and devise unique curriculum?

If yes, then that’s the right school no matter what it’s called. You are fucking awesome, and you need an Ivy diploma to prove it as much as you need your SAT score to get you laid.

So that’s my rant for the afternoon- I am so looking forward to more comments if you’re feeling curious or furious or just plain silly. And if I ribbed you a bit in this post... it's all in good fun.


"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." - Mark Twain

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." - Albert Einstein


  1. watcha think about this?


  2. oops - I guess I should have read this "Best Of" first before posting my long-ass response. Well, it's good to see that we agree on some points!

  3. I am having trouble figuring out what "your blog suffers from organisation" means.

    It's not just because I spell "organization" with a Z. I may have gone to BU, but I'm not completely retarded. Is this just a dangling-modifier-y way of saying that your blog is NOT organized (i.e., suffers from a LACK OF organization)? Is it colloquial British (i refer back to the S)? Because, taken literally, this would mean that your blog is not only TOO organized, but suffering as a result. Poor blog!

  4. wow.
    as someone who not only actually DID go to a state school (on a full ride) but never actually applied anywhere else (couldn't afford the app fees and was way too stoned to show up for the SAT's on time)....wait...i forgot my point.

    anyway, your "overly organised" blog never ceases to make me laugh out loud.

    oh yeah! my point. ok. at said "state school" (purdue, for the record...which is NOT ivy league, though some people seem to be confused by the fact that it only has "one name". wtf?) i had an amazing freshman english teacher who took great pains to help me sort out what the fuck i wanted to do with my life. this from a man teaching to science and technology majors who couldn't have given a rat's ass about writing, or reading for that matter.

    so, take that crimson. and shove it soundly up your elite, tightly wound ass.