On UChicago, Stanford, and Brown

<p>Editorial:</a> Being intellectual at Stanford | Stanford Daily</p>

<p>Editorial: Being intellectual at Stanford
Friday, February 3rd, 2012
By Editorial Board</p>

<p>Countless adjectives may be used to describe students at elite educational institutions. They may be “driven”, “motivated,” or “smart,” or they may be labeled as “nerds” or “geeks”. Another label is “intellectual”, perhaps more balanced in its notion of stimulating students’ intellect without implicitly passing judgment on their social skills. Where might Stanford fit in? A Sept. 2010 Huffington Post ranking highlights the top 10 most intellectual colleges, and Stanford is nowhere to be found.</p>

<p>Eight of the schools on the list are characterized in one markedly different way: unlike Stanford, they are small, liberal arts colleges that do not function as research powerhouses or institutions serving graduate students. Slightly more similar to Stanford are the two universities on the list: Brown and the University of Chicago. So what might differentiate the intellectual institution from its non-intellectual counterpart? Given that universities are comprised of self-selected student bodies – for example, some students might shy away from the unofficial slogan that the University of Chicago is “where fun goes to die” – certain characteristics might distinguish the typical (if that term can be used) Stanford student from a more “intellectual” student.</p>

<p>One possible difference highlights the divergence of intellectual and practical. Some might be quick to suggest that subjects in the humanities are more intellectual, and Stanford’s renown in engineering, science and social sciences attracts students preparing for delineated professional careers. Of course, another set of recent rankings provided by the Times Higher Education places the Humanities at Stanford at number two in the world.</p>

<p>Another possibility is location. Some students who choose to go to school within Silicon Valley seek almost immediate employment and immersion in an entrepreneurial environment. And other students who seek a different experience may then shy away.</p>

<p>None of this is to say that Stanford lacks intellectual character. Clearly, Stanford undergraduates cannot be lumped into one category or affixed with one large label. There are surely many students in the Philosophy Department who would gladly debate Nietzsche with students from the University of Chicago. Moreover, the kinds of learning we consider to be “intellectual” are part of an arbitrary, fluid category.</p>

<p>Stanford has another slightly different priority in the form of athletics. The front page of yesterday’sStanford Daily did, after all, devote itself to a story on the top recruiting class in Stanford football history (“Best Class Ever,” Feb. 2). Other statistics have cited that, were Stanford its own country, it would rank quite highly on the list of countries that have amassed the most medals in the Olympics. In contrast, both the University of Chicago and Brown do not boast particularly impressive athletics records.</p>

<p>Whether it is seen as an “intellectual” institution or not, Stanford certainly offers a wide variety of experiences to its undergraduates. The diverse nature of the student body, the activities available to it and the variety of academic focuses promoted by Stanford enable any undergraduate to make what they will of their undergraduate years. And while you may raise a few eyebrows with a conversation about Nietzsche at Tresidder Student Union, there is certainly still the possibility that someone will engage with you.</p>

<p>They wonder why Stanford doesn't have an intellectual reputation and then go on about what a great football team they have and concede that discussing philosophy on campus might raise a few eyebrows at the student union.</p>

<p>But Brown has a super-intellectual reputation? This is news to me.</p>

<p>@phuriku "article still sucks, though"</p>

<p>Yep and more than anything it really does speak volumes about the different character of the schools.</p>

<p>Really. This editorial is Exhibit A for "What does it mean when people say Stanford isn't intellectual?" It means that talking about ideas is seen as merely one element of a smorgasbord of ways to spend your time, including watching sports, earning money, and kicking back, all of which are equally valid and valuable, and not something that underlies and infuses everything you do. It also means that you can't expect the kids on the newspaper to know enough about philosophy (or to know enough philosophy majors) to understand that philosophy students probably aren't talking that much about Nietzsche, however fun his name is to spell. And that it apparently makes sense that students talking about what they are studying at the main undergraduate hangout would surprise people.</p>

<p>I think you're kind of right - learning permeates everything at the University of Chicago. It's in the conversations in coffee shops, un-official debates in student apartments, wandering through the Quads at 9am. It's a culture of passionate intellectual engagement, and it stems from the Core: we've all taken similar classes, and all read similar texts, so there's an understanding that almost everything you say will be understood by your fellow students.
Honestly, I've learnt more from the people sitting across from me at lunch sometimes that I have from the classroom.</p>

<p>I wish the "where fun goes to die" slogan would die.</p>


<p>This one is more recent; do you prefer it?</p>

<p>"If I just wanted an A I would have gone to Harvard."</p>

<p>Nah, personally, I think all of those slogans are a bit silly and outdated at U of C nowadays. Chicago engages in grade inflation, just like most other top schools, it's social life has improved, the students are more well-adjusted, etc etc. None of these slogans seem especially apt.</p>

<p>The main slogans at Stanford are "Go Cardinals" and "Let's play frisbee"</p>

<p>I have to second JHS's scathing and incisive evaluation of this vacuous editorial. Of course, it <em>is</em> a student editorial, and on occasion you can even find vacuous editorials in the Maroon. But if the Stanford piece is a fair representation of the place, it pretty strongly suggests that intellectual passion is at best optional there. And too often once something like this becomes optional, it will soon become marginalized and maybe even scorned.</p>

<p>I basically never post in other schools' forums, but someone PM'ed me and asked me to respond to this. There is in fact ample intellectualism at Stanford, though it's not something that students feel compelled to have on display at all times. We're a group confident in our abilities, for the most part, so while I have no trouble engaging people here in philosophical discussions or debating a wide range of topics, we don't try to one-up each other or see who can cite the longest list of obscure references. The Daily isn't too great at reflecting student life and culture here, and the editorials in particular often miss the mark.</p>

<p>I should add, since I originally wrote a paragraph to this effect but cut it out before making my previous post, for conciseness: I know from my time at Stanford long ago, and from the slight knowledge I have of recent undergraduates there, that there are plenty of intellectual college students at Stanford. In fact, the recent undergraduate I know best is currently a PhD student at Chicago, and he is and always has been as intellectual as all get-out. </p>

<p>Back when I knew a lot more about daily undergraduate life at Stanford, the issue wasn't that no one was intellectual; it was more that intellectualism was a kind of minority sub-culture practiced behind closed doors. I don't know what undergraduate culture is really like now, but this editorial sure makes it look as though nothing has changed. </p>

<p>I understand that, as zenkoan says, the student editors may not represent what the real culture is. On the other hand, they have to reflect at least part of the real culture, the part in which they participate. This isn't an editorial that could appear in The Maroon (or any number of other college papers, for that matter). The Maroon has its own goofy stuff, often, but it's goofy in different ways than this.</p>

<p>Chicago and Stanford (like Chicago and Harvard, Yale, Brown, etc.) have much more in common than not, and the similarities between their students and their cultures far outweigh the differences. That said, I think this editorial gives a glimpse of a real difference in "feel" between Stanford and Chicago.</p>

<p>My son does talk about "Ah, the Chicago moments!" kind of conversations he is having with his friends. It's pervasive, and it is in the air they breathe and water they drink. </p>

<p>Everything on this thread about U Chicago is completely consistent with what I am hearing from my son, so it's not a skewed observation of those on this board. </p>

<p>As a parent, I have to say this: I am grateful that as long as my son dates within the U Chicago boundary, it's almost guaranteed, though not 100%, that he is not going to introduce me to some kind of an airhead. And, no, it's not just because it's hard to get into Chicago. You could be an airhead going to Harvard, if you know what I mean - testing well, getting high grades and being a class president is not a vaccine against being intellectually and otherwise shallow. My son's own words: I can't imagine spending hours and hours with a girl who cannot maintain a train of very cogent and intelligent sequence of thoughts. </p>

<p>Not that my opinion matters with regard to who he dates, but a parent can still entertain a modicum of illusion and fantasy, right?</p>

<p>JHS, I've yet to meet the faction of Stanford students who feel that the Daily represents their viewpoints or culture; it's a strange phenomenon for sure. I got a kick out of your statement about intellectualism as a subculture practiced behind closed doors. I think that if someone is mainly listening to freshmen, it can seem that way at times. My take is that almost everybody here was a pretty serious nerd in high school, and when they first get here freshman year, some people decide to briefly try on a "cooler" persona, just to see what it would be like for a change. This doesn't last more than a quarter or two, if that long. Nerdiness remains in the DNA. Besides, it turns out that smart is way cool here. And intellectual is, too.</p>

<p>Chicago is cold and dreary and gives kids lots of time to talk. Stanford is sunny and kids can spend all day and night outside. No time for conversations. :p</p>

My take is that almost everybody here was a pretty serious nerd in high school, and when they first get here freshman year, some people decide to briefly try on a "cooler" persona, just to see what it would be like for a change.


<p>Happens at Chicago, too. As likely as you are to hear, "OMG Nietzche" you're about three times as likely to hear, "OMG Bar Night," particularly from freshmen.</p>

<p>My job takes me to the Stanford campus several times a year. To me, Stanford is like Disney World: nice to visit, not a place I'd like to live or go to school. That said, I was in love with Cal when I was in high school, so there are reasons I say that ;-)</p>

<p>Fear the Tree, uchicagoalumna! Oh--and that would be spelled "Nietzsche". Even here in "Disney World", we're familiar with him. ; )</p>

<p>We use the tree for firewood in Chicago.</p>

<p>I think Stanford is sometimes seen as not as intellectual as some of the other top schools because of some of the controversies over political correctness in the 80s and 90s (though Harvard and Yale Law Schools were also known for a very liberal faculty), whereas in general UChicago was seen as more conservative and didn't quite as openly embrace gender studies, etc.:</p>

<p>The Stanford Review notes:
"Equally bold claims were leveled at the university for the new, allegedly politically-correct structure of general humanities requirements, with classes entitled “CIV” replacing a Western Civilization requirement.</p>

<p>“When the outside world learns that Aristotle, Dante, Locke et al…have been replaced here by minor writers chosen for blatantly left-wing political reasons, our reputation will drop even lower,” wrote Mike Iwan and Norm Book in 1988.</p>

<p>Criticism toward liberal bias in curriculum development and in university admissions were hot-button issues in the eighties and moving in to the early nineties. Satirizing the misuse of political correctness, Adam Lieberman published a short guide to “partisanship” on Stanford’s campus, arguing that under Stanford’s definition of partisanship, it was considered “partisan” to fund anti-Marxist Nicaraguan Contras, but “non-partisan” to volunteer in guerrilla campaigns in El Salvador."</p>

<p>A</a> Brief and Non-Exhaustive History of the Stanford Review</p>

<p>Another note:
"For many people the decline of Western Civilization was symbolized at Stanford University in 1988 when, as Dinesh D'Souza described it, "Jesse Jackson led a group of protesting students who chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture has got to go."</p>

<p>From The myth of political correctness: the conservative attack on higher education
By John K. Wilson</p>

<p>(I haven't read the book and presumably he is arguing against the 'conservative attack' but it does give some sense of what people felt the reputation was.)</p>

<p>The</a> myth of political correctness: the conservative attack on higher education - John K. Wilson - Google Books</p>

In contrast, both the University of Chicago and Brown do not boast particularly impressive athletics records.


<p>It was at Chicago that 5 on 5 basketball was invented, as well as the batting cage, and the lateral pass in football to name a few (okay, one guy did all of these). But, I believe, as no one else who has also played Notre Dame in football can claim, Chicago is undefeated in games against the Irish!</p>