Posts Tagged ‘make stanford better’

Why College?

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Have you thought carefully about why you’re in college? Can you articulate what you want to get out of these four years? Now is an especially good time to ask these questions, because William Deresiewicz, author of a popular article on The Disadvantages of an Elite Education, will be speaking at Stanford this Tuesday, April 12th. While his thought-provoking article has a fuzzie slant, most students will see some truth in Deresiewicz’s critique of universities like Stanford.

In the meantime, if you feel like you sometimes struggle to reach your potential as a student, take a look at Cal Newport’s blog Study Hacks. Newport advocates the radical notion of a college experience centered around simplicity, and is also the author of two student advice books. In stark contrast to the mindset that academic success = more units + less sleep, he suggests taking fewer classes, performing outstandingly in them, taking on original projects that set you apart, and many other ideas. Some of the blog’s suggestions are probably best ignored, but overall it offers a ton of helpful and unique advice about college. (more…)

Complaining: Helping Create a “Better Stanford” or Being Ungrateful?

Monday, February 14th, 2011

It’s no secret: I like to complain. See here. Or here. Or here or here. You get the idea.

Is there value in complaining? I certainly hope so–otherwise, I would be wasting a significant portion of my time. Many of my complaints (and others’) have sparked discussion and entered a more general discourse, which I believe contributes to addressing the problems we face and hopefully improving the status quo. This is the general idea behind the recent “Make Stanford Better” project headed by Robin Thomas ’12. An open Google Doc for people to “vent” their criticisms of Stanford, or, as Thomas states:

I kept marinating on my own beefs with Stanford, and wanted to see how other people were feeling. Maybe if everyone’s frustrations were written down in one place, it would be easier to get some things changed.

So what frustrations were shared? Over 100 of them. Allow me, as a self-determined complaint expert, to highlight what I see as the most insightful comments:

Stanford is a great brand name, but I honestly don’t feel like I have gained meaningful academic experiences. Think about it: How many classes at Stanford can you say that you have loved? I can only name two that I haven’t found until this quarter. Winter quarter of my junior year! For a school that emphasizes following your passion and giving back, we sure do get caught up in grades. We say that we are only in competition with ourselves, but that’s untrue — at least for me. I find myself comparing myself to others, because how else are you going to measure your success? Now I know that we don’t have to compare ourselves to others, but Stanford doesn’t facilitate personal academic advancement. It’s not about learning. It’s about getting good grades, which doesn’t fulfill me if I can’t take anything away from it.

Many people on the spreadsheet agree that grades and learning are mutually exclusive: you either get good grades and learn little, or attempt to learn and get poor grades. I agree with this sentiment and how unfortunate this is, but am personally torn by it. I want to learn and I want to not care about grades, but the importance of getting good grades still pervades my life and definition of success. The definition of success also comes up a few times, but I think one important point is missed: Stanford and all of us encourage and seek out an achievement-based definition of value; in other words, the only items that carry value are those that can be quantified in terms of achievement. Socializing is inferior to being in a group because being in a group is a quantifiable and recognizable achievement but just getting to know people is not.