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Heh, “Colonial Colleges”

I like that title so much better than “Ivy League”. Here’s a brief and amusing history of American higher education that focuses almost entirely on those revered and over-rated East coast places (says the guy at a land grant college, a program which only gets a quick mention).

Other things that get only the most cursory but tantalizing mention: a tradition of rioting and dueling. I think, however, we can do without the tale of the student coming back to Princeton to beat up one of his teachers.


  1. tashaturner says

    Makes my time at college look boring and tame even when you add bullying in. There are a few teachers I might have liked to duel with as there opinion was the only right opinion in classes on philosophy and literature.

  2. says

    The California community college system teaches more students than the state’s other two post-secondary public institutions (the California State University and the University of California), but we don’t get a lot of love (or funding). For the first two years of college education, however, it’s hard to beat us. We cost less than CSU or UC (a lot less than UC!) and most classes are taught by full-time faculty (not inexperienced graduate assistants). I started my teaching career as a TA at a UC campus. My students were paying UC tuition for the privilege of experiencing my on-the-job training. (The UC professors get promoted on the basis of research, not teaching, and generally do their best to avoid the undergrad curriculum.) Now that I have years of experience, I am at a community college, where my current CC students get better education than my UC students did. (And we even planted some ivy on our campus for those who need the full collegiate experience!)

  3. M can help you with that. says

    Zeno @ 2 –

    Don’t forget class size. I did most of my lower-division math and science at a community college before heading back to a UC; not only did I have some professors who were devoted to teaching rather than seeing classes as a distraction from their research*, their attention was divided among fewer students. The increasing fees, decreasing class availability, and other symptoms of budget cuts are cause for concern, though.

    * (nothing wrong with research, of course, though I wish there were more positions for people who would be better suited to just doing research. And there are always professors who do well in both the lab and the classroom.)

  4. buddhabuck says

    Colonial Colleges and Ivy League are not synonymous. I live in a town with an Ivy League college that was not a Colonial College. It is, however, a land grant college.

  5. dornierpfeil says

    focuses almost entirely on those revered and over-rated East coast places

    I first read that last word as ‘PALACES‘. It would have fit just as well too.

  6. naturalcynic says

    It was possible to reject teaching and do only research in the UC system. My father [PhD in Biochemistry] rejected a tenured regular faculty position [he really, really didn't want the classroom thing] and did only research in a Naval Biomedical laboratory on campus, The lab was mostly funded with Navy money [ONR} but still attached to the School of Public Health and it eventually moved off-campus, but he retained his UC affiliation, as did a couple of othe researchers. He was adjunct faculty and occasionally mentored doctoral students and postdocs.
    Similar arrangements were few and far between.

  7. says

    I went to Willamette University, a private small liberal arts school, (mostly because with their aid package it was cheaper than a state school!) and even though my degree may not be worth as much on my resume as an Ivy Leauge one, I can guarantee I got a better education than my friends who went to Ivy Leagues. As mentioned above, class sizes are big. Also, universities that aren’t primarily research institutions hire based on teaching ability first and research second.

    More importantly for me, though, is the fact that when you are a lab assistant at a small lib arts college you actually do research. I spent a summer in the Mohave studying Joshua trees with my advisor (and would have published if we’d managed to get useful data) and another doing theoretical evolutionary biology (which I’m cleaning up for publishing right now). A friend of mine helped develop a way to synthesize certain chiral molecules that are important for drug manufacturing using green catalysts, while another produced the first transgenic organisms at our university and ended up making some pretty big advances in the study of a gene that might play a role in neurological diseases.

  8. Fern says

    Jeff @8 – I went to Princeton, and I didn’t have the problems that you seem to attribute to Ivy League schools. Many of my classes were quite small (one only had five students, others had less than a dozen), and even in the big lecture classes, we broke out into small precepts, which were often led by the professors themselves. I only had only one teacher who clearly didn’t want to teach and only cared about research. I think my husband, who was my classmate and majored in a completely different subject area, had a similar experience. He also did a ton of cool lab research.

    On another note, after reading the article I can’t believe I never rioted as an undergrad or challenged my professors to duels. What a wasted opportunity.

  9. DLC says

    What, they didn’t attack their students with knives, or throw scalding water on them ?
    They allowed them to live in proper housing and to use paper ?
    What kind of Quality Education™ is that supposed to be ?
    Bloody moderns. no respect at all for the traditions.

  10. says

    I’ve had many of the problems that are mentioned here at Rutgers (Colonial as pointed out, but also public and land-grant). All of the general science classes (Bio 101,102, Chem 1,2, Orgo 1,2, Physics 1,2…. you get the idea) were large classes with hundreds of people per section, even some of the major classes had upwards of 50 people. I think that the issues arises when you are a research heavy institute, which in some way has helped me. I did work as an undergrad, am employed as a lab tech, and now a grad student.