I listened to an hour long discussion on Public Radio today about Ivy League education and college education in general. I found it fascinating. One guy had written a book about how 'the elite schools' were no longer the 'best schools'. His theory was that the Ivy League creates a new generation of 'elites' because you need to be rich or extremely lucky to go to one of those schools and many of the students (not all by any means) see going to Yale or Harvard as a ticket to the 1% rather than a place to be challenged, to learn and grow, to find your 'true self'.
It reminded me of a story from my past.
I went to West Virginia University and got a BA in English and a minor in Political Science--thinking I either wanted to be a college professor of American Literature in some small Liberal Arts College (and write THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL along the way) or, if I found money mattered to me, I could go to law school. I had a 3.87 GPA and graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa (I long ago lost my key). But instead of going to graduate school in American Literature or Law school, I got this crazy 'Trial Year in Seminary' offer from the Rockerfeller Foundation. The committee asked me straight out where I wanted to go to seminary, and I said, off the top of my head: "Harvard". So they got me in without applying. (What the 1% can do!)
I was terribly intimidated about going to an Ivy League school, thinking I surely didn't belong. Harvard Divinity School had folks from several state schools, but I was from West Virginia. I had a hick accent. I surely didn't measure up. Plus my next door neighbor in Divinity Hall, where I lived the first year, was a Harvard College undergrad. I was sure I wasn't up to Cal's standards. I mean, West Virginia University vs. Harvard College--no contest, in my mind. He must be a font of wisdom and knowledge and I must be only a trickle.
The first time we talked I was very nervous and he talked fast and I thought slow and at some point he said to me, "you just contradicted yourself."
I'm sure I had, but I replied, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradicted myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."
He gawked at me and said, "wow, that's great!"
"It's Walt Whitman," I said.
He looked confused. "Walt 'who'?" he asked.
Suddenly I wasn't nearly as nervous about being on Harvard's hallowed grounds as I had been but a moment before....
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