It was always thus

Or at least it was true when I attended college. Get into an Ivy and stop working – you’d made it, and would never have to work again. Until the real world hit, but heck, that was four to seven years later and even then, old school ties could probably keep you afloat for a career. That’s why I was so cheesed when I was rejected by those folks back in the day. I had to work for a degree.Right now, only 23% of Harvard classes have final exams. That means for  77% of your courses, you need only smile on your brother and all get together right now. What a deal. The Chinese are going to eat our lunch.


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32 responses to “It was always thus

  1. Local Harvard Fella

    Chris – Surprised to hear this. I graduated from the college 20 years ago and had final exams in EVERY class, some of which counted 50% to 70% of the final grade. Was an intense place but in a healthy and positive way. Could things be this different now? If you are right, I agree with your assessment of the future. I’ll do some research.

  2. Anonymous

    I was all excited to go to Harvard and get a degree in Women, Gender, & Sexuality! Going to college to major in chicks, and doing it completely on the up and up! Heck, it’s Harvard! How great is that !! Heck, I’d look forward to a final “exam.”

    Turns out, you have to be an angry, ugly lesbian to be admitted to the department. No dudes allowed.

    Screw Harvard.

  3. Anonymous

    The “Rate Your Professor” type of web sites have pummeled the profs into submission: those who give rigorous quizzes, let alone final exams, earn an automatic “F” from their students at these sites, striking fear into their untenured (and even tenured) hearts. And who can blame them?

    It’s the internet, stupid!

  4. Anonymous

    Would guess >30% of Harvard (or any other lib arts college) grads from last 2yrs are un/underemployed

    As a taxpayer and investor, delighted to see free markets (despite commie interventions of era) and profit-seeking employers pricing the value (or lack thereof) of lib arts-derived job skills in a tech and quant-driven, virtualized, globalized economy

  5. Mr. Pink

    re: your last line. You must be a secret supporter of Ms. O’Donnell.

  6. Dragged to Hong Kong

    The Chinese already are. You should see it here, the streets are paved with gold and forget getting into a yacht club, the wait list is longer than Gideon’s boat.
    Can you get a Facebook sticker thing so that I can put your website as my favorite on my page?
    Missing you all xxx

  7. Gentlemen C's

    Much of my view of Harvard is the hardest part is getting in. They then just assume you are bright. Sadly, the legacy factor at Harvard has more weight than actual brains. The faculty just indulge each other as well with titles of greatest.

    I think society will be rethinking the value of a college experience in the years ahead. On-line education is the wave of the future for education. Much of what is actually taught can be done at home anyway viewing a PC. The physicial school is just there for the social interaction and exchange of voices (which could be done over a webcam anyway).

    No wonder the founder of University of Phoenix is getting rich. On-line education is the next gold-rush. Buy those stocks.

  8. EOS

    Not having exams goes way back (for me in prep school). If you had an 85 or over in a course, no final. You could always tell the smart kids at graduation: they were tan from a week of sunning at Rehoboth Beach while the rest of us were turning pages in blue books. I only did well in English, French and Latin – so I had to stick around for finals in at least three subjects.

    As for college, I don’t think exams prove a whole lot: some people just know how to ace tests but I don’t think it means they know the subject any more than I might, someone who doesn’t test well. I don’t remember that my children took many finals in college either – I just hope it meant the professor didn’t give one! 🙂

  9. FlyAngler

    Ah, the Ivy products! I interview a dozen or so kids a year for starting positions at a major investment bank. I have done so for the past 20 years.

    What has always struck me, but particularly over the past decade, is the sense of entitlement that the Ivy grads bring to an entry level interview. I could tell you stories but suffice it to say that none of them hhink they should have to “settle” for an entry level position. That they should have to work beyond 6pm in their early years – oh my! That we might ask them to log in over a weekend to work on something with a short deadline – “really”?! Fifteen years ago, before remote computing, that would have involved actually coming into the office.

    I do not get the same reaction from kids from non-Ivy schools btw. Yes, I am making some broad generalizations here but this is an accurate assessment for 80% of the kids I see, particularly today.

    And for anyone who might suggest I have a chip on my shoulder, my undergrad is from a small engineering college (non-Ivy) and my MBA was from a b school of an Ivy college.

  10. Just the Facts!

    Easy does it on the Ivy’s. You are assuming that final exam’s are the only way to evaluate performance. From my personal experience, peer pressure and the desire to learn was more of a driver than scoring well on any single exam. Not to mention, there were drastic six sigma policies that weeded many people out if they found themselves at the other end of the curve more than once. And yes, there were free riders but that happens everywhere especially with the pervasive cheating at many colleges. However, the true motivation to learn at any top school is when you graduate you are held to the highest standard. Trust me, you understand this pressure well as a student and even if you didn’t learn the subject at school you are expected in the real world to know everything well. And this is the burden of all Ivy graduates…as evidenced by the premise of this blog article.

  11. edgewater

    JTF at 6:29 could be an Ivy graduate, based on his/her grammatical errors [‘and’ takes a plural verb, no?] and attempted justification for the Ivy’s former respect in the marketplace. ‘Trust me’ almost always precedes an unsupportable statement. As I watched a couple of nephews look for jobs after their Ivy days, I know well why they’re not loved by employers, recruiters or co-workers. And I’m not anti-Ivy, having gone there and having children also attend, graduate and go on to non-entitlement jobs off wall street.

  12. Cobra

    No exams? That explains Obummer.

  13. Libertarian Advocate

    There’s an interesting piece by Michael Barone entitled: “The Higher Education Bubble: Ready to Burst?”

    Go here to read it:

  14. TraderVic

    Sour grapes! Our children don’t go to Harvard, and neither did we, but it is the undeniable “gold standard”. Just look at the kids from Greenwich High School that go there. Have you heard about that Will Newbury? Last year’s GHS Valedictorian, he won the Intel Science Award for applying plant photosynthesis to cancer prevention — two totally different sciences. Kids like that deserve a “gold ticket” in life, exams or no exams!

  15. FlyAngler

    Sorry, I should have said “my MBA was from a b-school of an Ivy university” just so I am not accused of ignorance.

    Also, “hhink” should have been “think” which was missed by the iPad’s spellcheck.

    Since some are commenting on other’s grammer, etc., I thought a correction was in order before I am mocked.

  16. Anthony Fountain

    The plural of Ivy is Ivies.

  17. FlyAngler


    I found your use of “gold standard” interesting in that bubble can form in tulips, precious metals and even higher ed (as the linked Barone article articulates so well).

    I think you are missing the point. The best and brightest can thrive in such institutions and enjoy very fruitful and successful lives. It is the others that go there who expect the same that is part of the problem I identify. As was noted, the legacy students are often times getting in because of, or aided by, who their parents and/or grandparents happen to be. This drags down the quality of the overall pool a bit but worse, instills that sense of priviledge and entitlement that is often unwarranted based on their talents, accomplishments or intellect.

    Not every Harvard grad would have been considered “Harvard material” fifty or more years ago. Sure, that has been an age old problem but it is getting more acute, particularly with the proliferation of “-studies” majors which provide little in the way of marketable skills outside of acedemia.

    Sorry, I am mixing my pet peeves about higher ed here but there is a HE bubble in costs, unrealistic expectations and academic slack that is going to deflate, first slowly but then more quickly.

    If you want to read much more on the topic, try this:

  18. Anonymous

    Fly Angler,
    While it is politically incorrect to point this out, the legacy students don’t dilute the talent p0ol as much as the affirmative action students.

    This effect was quantified at Princeton by Professor Thomas J. Espenshade. The numbers from his published study on the Opportunity Cost of Affirmative Action at Princeton are eye-opening. And yes, he accounts for family, athletics, etc.

    Ignore heritable intelligence and overweight victimology. As CF pointed out, these are among the reasons why the Chinese and Indians are eating our lunch.

    quisnam es verus solvo-veho ?
    (who are the real free-riders?)

  19. EOS

    Call me silly but I know so many smart-as-heck kids who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Yes, they may be the ones to cure cancer and the world needs them but I like that my brood is so well-rounded. I went to an Ivy and got little to nothing out of my education because I didn’t put much (any) in. Old school ties only go so far today; you might get in the door at Goldman because of it but it doesn’t ensure you keep that job. Harvard might be right for some but it’s certainly not the be-all end-all (IMO).

  20. Just the Facts!

    Edgewater, My point exactly. Focus on irrelevant grammar errors rather than the actual content. An Ivy education taught us to think, not cram for the next exam nor have the presumption/rudeness to correct someone else’s grammar. Keep your eye on the ball. It’s the ideas that matter.

    Anthony Fountain, The true etymology of Ivy was the Roman numeral ‘IV’….for the four original schools Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Brown before Ivy was bastardized into some social club to allow any other university who ponied up the funds. So the plural should actually be IV’s.

  21. Old School Grump

    I worked in a big NYC ad agency in the late 70s, when the agency was loading up its account management teams with newly-minted MBAs from prestigious schools. MBAs or no, they still had to start as assistant account executives, which meant they had to interact a lot with workers lower on the food chain–traffic managers, mailroom clerks, mechanical artists, photocopy department personnel, other people’s secretaries, etc. It was hilarious to watch. They had no clue how to act with anyone who was different from them, and they paid dearly for their snobbery. I’ll bet things haven’t changed much!

  22. just_looking

    Only slightly related, but I attended public high school in NYS and the final was the state administered “regents exam”. The policy at my HS was if you regents score was higher than your grade prior to the final, then the regents score was your final grade. I learned to be a good test taker, but the first half of each year was not spent with books.

  23. Bridmw

    Just the Facts! Even if you use IV the plural is IVs – you need to review the difference between possessive and the plural.

    While it may be the ideas that matter, the communication of these ideas is so much more effective when one has a decent grounding in the basic grammar of their native language.

  24. HG

    JTF, I have heard that the “IV” etymology is an urban myth. Even worse, I have heard that Rutgers was one of the original four.

    The Indians and Chinese are eating the lunch of American auto parts workers, not Ivy, Ivies or IV graduates. Tell it to Ratan Tata (Cornell ’62).

    Also quite possibly the lunch of Rutgers graduates.

    Great schools have very durable advantages, which is why the best school in the country has remained the same since before the Declaration. They can be degraded, like Oxford and Cambridge, by government involvement.

    A good school does not make the man, though. Shakespeare did not go to Eton, Oxford or Cambridge.

  25. Old School Grump

    Just the Facts at 10:58,

    Here’s why grammar matters:

    If someone is unable or unwilling to pay attention to the little, piddling things, why would I trust him or her with the big, important things?

  26. Anonymous

    MIT and Stanford are pre-Declaration?
    Who knew?

  27. HG

    Stanford is an excellent school but has never produced a Commodore of the IHYC. Nor has MIT, and that school has not even produced a US president.

  28. pulled up in OG

    Walt wins this one – the filly’s pranced through three of the Ivy’s.

  29. Anthony Fountain

    Just the Facts, the consensus is the term “Ivy League” first appeared in a column by New York Herald Tribune sports reporter Caswell Adams in 1937, in article about the football teams of the “Ancient Eight:” Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale. There is no authoritative source whatsoever to support the “Roman IV” explanation and even if were true, there is still no need for an apostrophe before the “s” in the plural inflection.

  30. Old School Grump

    For what it’s worth, the most effective old boys network I’ve ever witnessed is that of Washington & Lee (and not just in the south). They definitely look out for one another. It’s almost a cult.

  31. EOS

    Grump, In 1962 my sister set off for Sweet Briar. The pool of boys =W&L. I know from whence you speak. Only one of my children’s peers went there, where as back in the day, tons of my friends. They sure knew how to party…and the best dancers around.

  32. digler

    Att: “Just the Facts”

    If you were to ask any Old School (pre-G.I. bill) Harvard, Yale, or Princeton Man if they considered Brown in their “league” they would have laughed out loud at you!