American Culture

Screw the hints. Here's why really bright kids steer clear of most state universities

by JS O’Brien

By overwhelming, popular demand (and if you haven’t met Doc Slammy, you don’t know the meaning of the word “overwhelming”), here is a point-by-point translation of Lena Antman’s letter to the editor that prompted me to write the first article in this series. I know I said before that I wouldn’t do this because it would be insulting your intelligence, but rest assured: I’m not insulting your intelligence, I’m insulting Slammy’s intelligence.

Here’s my analysis. Once you’ve read it, I’ll give my take on (drum roll please) exactly why so many, many bright kids steer clear of state universities.

A disappointing education

As my first year of college draws to a close, I realize that I have learned nothing academic from these hallowed halls at the University of Colorado.

Translation:My writing skills are such that I think hackneyed phrases like “hallowed halls” are wildly creative.

I am spending $8,000 per semester to have instructors teach me things that I already know. I am given assignments that take hours of my life to complete and leave me wondering what I was supposed to have gained.

Translation:My parentsare spending a pittance (by today’s standards) on my college education, but I can’t possibly benefit from it because I already know everything there is to know. Homework is just so boring. Why do I have to do this stuff, anyway? It takes hours and, since I already know it all, it’s completely useless.

My esteemed professors gab about their personal lives, their vendettas, drop names of people in their field all while leading tedious discussions and teaching us to be overly critical and judgmental of ideas presented by others.

Translation:I’ll use the word “esteemed” to show my contempt for those who are way more learned than I, then I’ll accuse them of spending a few moments in class trying to provide a relaxed and collegial atmosphere when what they should be doing is lecturing us non-stop for the whole period. If any of my professors disagree with a colleague or two and say so, that’s a “vendetta.” If any of my professors mention the names of those who’ve done well-respected and original research in a field, that’s not acknowledgement, that’s “name-dropping.”

I find discussions tedious because I can’t follow them and I’m not good at them. What I want is for teachers to just lecture me on some facts so that I can memorize them and regurgitate them for the tests. That’s what learning is. Other’s ideas (and, BTW, my own ideas) deserve to be treated with respect, regardless of their merit. Even an “idea” that’s nothing more than an unsupported opinion deserves to be considered, and we students deserve to be patted on the head just for having an idea in the first place.

In one of my classes, we read articles and classmate-written papers and are instructed to “tear them apart.” I feel a student is only rewarded when they offer up a witty biting criticism, rather than a clearly presented idea or even a compliment.

Translation:All that boring Enlightenment stuff like subjecting ideas to strong criticism to see if they can stand up to a determined attack is useless. Instead, we should praise everyone for even having a thought if it’s “clearly presented.”

We learn to say what is wrong with something but rarely are we asked how to make it right. In college, the classroom is full of those sharing problem after problem, those who are too shy to speak their opinions at all, worried about getting criticized, and those like me who are just waiting for the learning to start and are left wanting more.

Translation: I think we should not only criticize some Faulkerian passages for their prolixity, but tell everyone how we are all better writers than Faulkner and how we would fix his prose. Personally, I’m afraid to say anything for fear of being criticized. I want the learning to begin, so just give me a lecture and let me write things down and parrot them back when the time comes.

But my education hasn’t been a total bust; I’ve learned how to stretch two pages of information into a 10-page paper, where the best parties are on a Thursday night, how to use Facebook in lecture and just how small one person can write on the one note card allowed in the exam room. Perhaps I am just an idealistic youth who thought I would learn something more from my liberal arts education at CU. I can’t help being disappointed at what exactly college has turned out to be.

Translation: I don’t have the research skills or the necessary intellect to actually find enough information for a ten-page paper, so I’ve learned to stretch a tiny amount of information into ten pages using phrases like “really, really, really, really liked this passage” or cool, creative phrases like “hallowed halls.” I hate having to actually think (memorization is so much better, don’t you think?), so I party and use Facebook during my classes, then blame the faculty for that. I was so idealistic about just sitting there like a bump on a log so that my professors could just pour knowledge into me, so I could write it down. I’m so disappointed that my ideals have been so badly betrayed.



So, why do so many of the brightest kids around head to colleges that are so selective that only other very, very bright kids can get in? Because they don’t want to be in classes with kids like Lena Antman. I know a lot of these Ivy League-type kids. They took all honors and AP/IB courses in high school not because they enjoyed the brutality of it, but because they didn’t want to be in classes with kids like Lena Antman.

If you believe that learning is about short-term memorization for the test then, by all means, attend your local state U (unless it’s a school like Berkeley, William and Mary, Michigan, Virginia, or North Carolina where you’ll probably be forced to think). For those of you who actually want to learn cognitive skills, let me give you some advice: trying to have a good in-class discussion, where one sharpens one’s thinking skills, in a class full of Lena Antmans, is like trying to sharpen a knife on overcooked rigatoni.

Go into debt. Get a real education.

32 replies »

  1. As I have noted before, I’m a former professor. There are multiple reasons why I’m a former prof instead of a current prof, but none is more important than this: I didn’t want to be in classes with kids like Lena Antman. Sadly, my classes were packed with Lena Antmans.

    Your translations are not only on the mark, they’re brutally so. The entitlement complexes beat anything I’d ever seen and yes, they didn’t need me to teach them because they already knew the answers. I wasn’t there to challenge or to educate, I was there to pat them on the head, tell them they were right and give them an A.

    Am I describing all my former students? No, of course not – I actually had a few really good ones, and at least three of them are regular S&R readers who e-mail me from time to time.

    It wasn’t like this when I taught in grad school and as an adjunct before returning to get my doctorate (from 1987 to 1997). Those students were by and large the opposite of Lena Antman, and several of those years were spent teaching at CU.

    A lot of people are getting out of teaching, and a lot of the ones who are staying are doing so despite their frustrations with the very dynamic you’re describing.

    I’d love to hear some comments from the professors who had the pleasure of teaching Lena this year.

  2. Sam,

    I suspect graduate students were a different breed back then, and are still probably a lot better than your average undergrad. But I would bet that things are deteriorating at the grad level, as well, because so many kids are going on to grad school these days to get an edge on the competition that has only an undergrad degree.

    Quantity over quality, all around.

  3. Seriously, are state univerities that bad? I know that Florida has some pretty bad schools, but is it as bad all over?

    I went to private schools, and didn’t learn that much except for how to stretch two pages into ten. Grad school wasn’t much better, except my poker game got better.

    At least I got a good wife out of the deal.

    JS: That was an absolutely fantastic article you wrote, one of your best. I passed it on to my son for his thoughts(it takes something really thought provoking for me to pass it on to him).


  4. Jeff:

    Really, I think it comes down to the quality of the student body. Many, many private schools have egregiously underpowered student bodies. I wasn’t comparing private schools to public ones, but elite private schools to mondo-state-Us, and why the cost advantage state Us have is still not sufficient to attract the best students (with noted exceptions).

    I can’t speak for Northwestern (isn’t that where you went undergrad?), but I can tell you that, had I tried to stretch two pages into ten at UVA, I would have gotten back a paper torn into tiny shreds with enough red on it to send Quentin Tarantino into orgasmic epilepsy. A single logical fallacy would cost me a letter grade, at least. If I didn’t participate in class, I’d be graded down, and if I did participate, I’d be subject to the same ridicule as anyone else for not thinking clearly.

    That kind of education tends to sharpen a mind.

    Truth be told, by the time I was third year, the issue wasn’t stretching info but boiling it down. Try getting 10 pages of information into four. Now that’s really a trick.

    So, you got a PhD from Northwestern in chemistry, and you knew more than the profs?

    Maybe the people at U of Chicago are right about Northwestern ;-).

  5. I went to 2 state U’s, Penn State and then graduate studies at CU-Boulder. Penn State had its share of Lena Altmans, but I almost inevitably ran into them in my liberal arts classes, not my engineering classes. By and large my fellow EE students were, if not highly motivated to educate themselves, at least motivated enough to graduate and get a reasonably high-paying engineering job. If they weren’t, they left to get business degrees and then MBAs. Now, that’s after 2 years of weed-out classes that were quite effective at weeding out the students who weren’t serious about being EEs. Ie, all the Lena Altman’s on the engineering path.

    That said, the quality of my fellow students stepped up dramatically when I entered grad school. Everyone in graduate EE at CU wanted to be there and worked to stay, or they dropped out after the first semester. I’d successfully coasted on some of the classes I didn’t really get (probability/statistics) and was forced to reteach myself probability while in the midst of a graduate class or risk being kicked out.

    I ended up getting good enough at it that half my MSEE was based on probability and communications theory.

  6. Yeah, Brian, engineering and science classes are different. I doubt you had too many open-ended discussions about fluid mechanics with your professors.

    But English classes (remember that “liberal arts” encompasses things like physics), philosophy, etc. require people to make sense out of complex logic structures, or to tease out meaning from symbolism and metaphor, or (in the case of something like history) to explain how complex interactions among several societal factors led and can lead to broad change.

    I have found those skills to be very handy in the business world which is really much, much mushier than MBAs would want you to believe (despite their amazing ability to synergize with everyone). In fact, I would say that some of the most incompetent people I have ever met were MBAs. But that’s a different story.

    Let’s just say that the Lena Antmans of the world want to write down that Shakespeare was born in 1564, then write it down on a test. They think that’s “learning.” The JS O’Briens of the world are interested in whether Shakespeare could have been Shakespeare had he been born 20 years earlier or later. Finding the answer to that question involves learning about and analyzing the interactions of multiple factors in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.

    And I think learning to do that well is one of the most valuable ways to sharpen a mind in a world where hard-and-fast formulae work only for the most specific and mechanistic problems.

  7. My experience with the academic world is limited. But, Dr. S’s testimony aside, I can’t help but thinking you’re reading to much into Leah Antman’s letter, JSO.

    Why not give this young woman some credit and take her words at face value instead of — no offense — using her to make your point (however valid, I’m sure!)?

    Perhaps Leah Google Alerts her name and this post will pop up in her email. Are you listening, Leah? Come forward and defend yourself.

  8. JS:

    I knew more than my profs in my little niche, which isn’t saying I knew more than my profs. That being said, NU was an enriching experience, despite my complete lack of scholarly achievement. Back in the 70’s, college was a completely different animal, and things weren’t as cut-throat at the top schools as they seem to be today. My son has been telling me things about some of the kids at his school, and how they seem to be having nervous breakdowns because of the stress from the rigors of study. My son doesn’t have that kind of stress, as his major comes easily to him, and he’s not a type A personality. I also encourage him to have fun and not take things too seriously, as he’s young and will have another 50 years to be serious.

    What does your son say about the difficulty of UofC? I’ve known guys who majored in the physical sciences there that went completely, stark raving mad. I’ve also got some friends that went to the business school there and managed to coast along with ease. My lovely wife always said that likability was a key factor to success, whether in business or academics. She counseled me to be well liked by my advisors, and it would be a lot smoother…she was right.

    As for the Maroons, they are half right in what they say about NU, and the folks at NU are half right about what they say about the Maroons:) I’ll diplomatically stay out of that one.

    BTW, it looks like I’ll be in your neck of the woods around the end of May. I’ll be in NYC from May 5-12 for the Sotheby’s Impressionist auction, and plan on visiting Colorado 2 weeks later.


  9. Well, Russ, I think I AM taking her words at face value. She’s opposed to criticism and calls class discussions “tedious.” She’s a first year, so that means she’s probably taken 10 classes, max, yet she indicts something on the order of 2,000 faculty members based on a maximum sampling of 10. She claims to know everything already in every class, which seems unlikely to me. She knows where the parties are and visits Facebook in class, so how would she even know what’s going on in class?

    Sorry Russ. This one doesn’t fly with me. I respect your opinion, but I don’t buy it.

  10. Thanks, JSO. Yeah, now that you reiterate them, her criticisms do seem facile. But are other students really running from her to other campuses?

    Oh, and Jeff, would you pick me up a Pissarro? 9″ x 12″ would be fine.

  11. Lena may well be a callow, self-absorbed twit with an entitlement complex and an immature world view.

    But what do we really know about her from her letter?

    She’s eighteen or nineteen, an older adolescent; it is not entirely surprising that her prose style is immature as well. She can, however, form complete sentences and arrange them in a logical, coherent fashion. She appears to be taking the standard freshman liberal arts classes at a state university, which have become primarily remedial (yeah, I said it) catch-up courses for incoming students… so if Lena paid any attention at all in high school, she very likely does know much of this already. The faculty or grad students who land these teaching assignments, in my limited experience, do not view them as either a reward or as a sacred pedagogical duty.

    She also appears to be able to differentiate between snark and argument, to feel a need for solutions as well as problems, and to be astute enough to recognize ivory tower gossip as inappropriate material for the freshman classroom. Doesn’t sound like someone asking for more rote memorization…

    Is she young, inexperienced and impatient? Yes. Does she overgeneralize? Yes. Does she care about the quality of her education, for Christ’s sake? YES, YES, YES.

    I don’t think Lena (and her paltry $8000 a year, which may not be quite so paltry to her and her parents, and speaking of overgeneralization, how do we know they’re the ones shelling out, or what kind of classes she took in high school, or…?), with her youthful disillusionment and her budding Facebook addiction, is a particularly good example of the point you’re trying to make. The ones you’re after aren’t writing letters to the paper. They’re dozing in the back row or texting each other about those parties Lena has discovered.

    Or maybe they’re the ones dumping those stupid freshmen on their grad students.

  12. Russ:

    Are other students really running from her? Oh yes. Really bright and accomplished kids here often take classes at CU. I hear the same things from them over and over and over: the CU kids are just like the kids in not-so-challenging high school classes.

    I just looked up the top 50 kids from one of the high school’s graduating classes two years ago. I see a number of elite institutions they’ll be attending.

    I don’t see a single one that’s attending CU, though about 40% of the overalll graduating class is.

  13. Sorry Jeff. Forgot to answer your question in the middle of that Oklahoma drill from Russ and Euphrosyne.


    My son says that the UofC consists of very bright kids who study really, really hard. Getting an A there is tough because of the work ethic. Other places have kids as bright, but not too many other places have kids that bright who work that hard.

    He says his class discussions are pretty much about the same level as high school, but his high school classes were filled wth Ivy League types.

    Can’t comment on the business school. First year advanced calc sends a lot of students around the bend.

    The UofC has changed its admissions philosophy in recent years. They still expect kids to self-select out of applying if they aren’t seriously into hard, academic work. In that sense, it’s still an academic boot camp and they’re proud of that. They try hard these days, though, to go after kids who were athletes, student leaders, artists, prom kings and queens, and the like.

    I attended a lecture for alums and parents just a few weeks ago. Man, the alums were … ahm … somewhat personality challenged.

  14. JS: You should have left that lecture and taken the Red line up to the Howard Connector and gone on to Evanston. At NU, I’ll bet that there was 2 or 3 gallery showings, lectures, or performances complete with wine bar. NU alums tend to have fun….I guess we have to find something we do better than maroons:)

    Seriously, some of those Chicago kids are the brightest kids I’ve ever encountered. I’m not so impressed with some of my son’s Yale pals. However, I guess I’ve gotta be nice to all those kids as I will someday be their ward when I’m in my dotage.


  15. Maybe things are different in CO than they are in IN. Most of the top kids in my daughter small graduating class went to IU or Purdue. Some went to ND but not a marked percentage. None went Ivy league since most of them can’t afford it even with help. A couple chose smaller private schools but in state, Earlham and the like.
    Our daughter wanted a large university with a diverse student body. A huge range of classes she could take and a vibrant campus life style were also on her want list. We toured most of the public universities and several of the private ones. She chose IU as it afforded her a quality education at a reasonable price (I still cringe writing the checks, though at least not as much as my neighbor writing the Wabash checks). She loves it and has thrived.
    I went to a small private school and learned zip. I later attended a public university and graduated with top honors. Did the schools matter, no. I mattered. I was 4 years older and more mature the second time around. Perhaps 4 years in the working world for Lena and the like would increase the respect she has for learning. I know that’s what it took for me to want to learn rather than go through the motions.

  16. Like Slammy, I have too many Lenas in my classes. I agree with every point of your “translation.”

    I used to try to “save them all.” Now, I work to save the ones who meet me half way. Now, that means either I’ve matured as a professor … or I’ve been an absolute hardass.

    For a decade now, I’ve come to believe that as a college prof I’m teaching what they should have learned in their last two years of high school.

    As for Lena, she decided to take her complaints public. Good for her. But now, presumably, she’ll learn that the realities of the world beyond those “hallowed halls” and the “Thursday night parties” can fall on her rather abruptly.

    That’s the risk undertaken by those who do not approach their education with serious intent and the understanding that they’ll actually have to THINK.

  17. I would be interested to see what someone like Lena Antman would have said if she had spent that first year at Mines instead of CU Boulder.

    In my first year at Mines I learned the importance of getting a good study group together, how to condense a 10 page paper into 2 pages, practiced giving presentations, the importance of actually waking up for that 8 AM lab, and that if a teacher is completely incomprehensible you still have to find a way to pass the class.

    Virtually nothing I saw in my first year of Mines was remedial, and while I covered some already familiar ground, the level was usually a notch above what I had seen previously. The “first chemistry test” became a running joke on campus, simply because it was the point that most freshmen seemed to realize “the party is over.”

    I believe Euphrosyne raises some extremely valid points in this case. Ms. Antman is young, probably in a series of what are functionally remedial classes, and most likely bored out of her skull in those classes. At the same time, she actually seems to care about the quality of her education. That is more than I can say for most.

    Sure, she has an entitlement complex, is immature, and comes across as arrogant and conceited. But then, she’s 18-19 years old.

    She may also, under it all, have some valid points that deserve consideration. Perhaps her core problem is that her classes are not challenging her or making her think. Perhaps because the professors (TAs?) have come to the conclusion that they are reteaching the last two years of high school, she feels like there is nothing new on the table. Its worth considering.

  18. Llywelyn:

    I think Mines is among the most underrated technical/engineering schools in the country.

    As for Euphronsyne’s defense of Ms. Antman, my take is that Ms. Antman cares about her education the way a Burger King customer cares about food. It ain’t the quality of the food that’s the issue. She just wants to have it her way.

  19. Oh, no thank you, JS. I try to reserve my snark-ups for grownups. There’s simply too much intimidating competition in the field of errant youth admonishment.

  20. I try to reserve my snark-ups for grownups.

    Ordinarily, Joy, I’d do the same, but this case is different. You and I (or maybe it’s just I) are completely overmatched by Ms. Antman.

    Just ask her.

  21. There’s some pro-Lena sentiment here that seems to revolve around a couple points: first, that she’s young, and second, that she clearly cares about her education. I think I need to take issue.

    Yes, she’s young, and at the age of 19 we were all omniscient, so to some degree I can accept this part of the defense. However, at the age of 19 we didn’t all publicly call out all the professors on our campuses, so it isn’t like JS went hunting for an innocent here. She’s getting spanked because she put herself at the center of the public discussion.

    Second, I don’t think she cares about her education at all. She cares a great deal about her resume, I’m sure, but it’s not apparent that she understands what an education IS. I’m trying hard not to overgeneralize, because I haven’t taught this student and don’t know her personally. However, she reminds me a great deal of students I have taught – a GREAT DEAL, to the point that I can easily imagine 20 or so from my last two freshman classes alone that I think could also have written this very letter.

    She doesn’t know what an education is because she’s never been to a school that offered one, and that isn’t her fault. She knows what memorization is and she knows what tests are, to be sure. But she doesn’t know what it is to think critically, to think associatively. She doesn’t know, as JS points out, what it is to research. She has no idea how to develop an idea, or how to assimilate information and develop a logical argument from it. And so on.

    So it’s hard to lay all the blame on her. She’s one of those children that George Bush didn’t want Left Behind. She knows that she’s supposed to show up, write it down, and spit it back on the test, but mostly she knows that the teacher is there to tell her she’s right and give her a gold star just for being her. She’s entitled to that.

    And if she doesn’t get what she’s entitled to, it’s somebody else’s fault and that person has to pay.

  22. I have no idea whether Lena is a spoiled brat or an upstanding young woman, but I’m impressed by the continuing omniscience of people, including at least two professors, far, far past the know-it-all age of 19. For example, I still see nothing, aside from anecdote and personal association, to support this assertion:

    “She doesn’t know what an education is because she’s never been to a school that offered one, and that isn’t her fault. She knows what memorization is and she knows what tests are, to be sure. But she doesn’t know what it is to think critically, to think associatively. She doesn’t know, as JS points out, what it is to research. She has no idea how to develop an idea, or how to assimilate information and develop a logical argument from it. And so on. ”

    This could very well be the case. Or not. Here’s why I wonder.

    As someone who attended a public university as an adult student, I saw plenty of “Bad Lenas.” In the few undergraduate courses for which I couldn’t finesse credit, I also encountered these professorial types: a “Repetitive Mumbler,” a “Perennial No-Show,” a “Bitter Unpublished LitCritTwit,” and at least two “Just Crapped Out of Tenure But Must Finish the Semesters.” The combination of the unteachable and the unable to teach – deadly. Deadening. Depressing.

    Does Lena have professors like these? Maybe not. And she did, indeed, “call out” the ones she does have, and she is, therefore, fair game for criticism of her public remarks. Pro-Lena, though? Please. My point, though I may not have made it clear, is that I don’t even know her, or her professors, or her particular situation, and if you think she’s truly a prime example of the flotsam of NCLB, the real thing might kill you. This is just a smartass kid.

    But no one around here was ever like that.

  23. Euphrosyne:

    I made two things clear in my previous comment: 1 – No, I don’t KNOW the girl, and 2 – yes, I was omniscient like the rest of us. With that on the table:

    1: I DO know a thing or two about the profs at CU, since that’s where I got my PhD. While doing so, I taught there for four years. Are there substandard profs – sure. But the picture she paints is pure fiction. And if she can’t tell the rule from the exception, well, that kind of adds more support for my argument.

    2: We don’t need to speculate to draw some conclusions. She tells us a great deal about herself. For instance, when she isn’t happy with how class is going, she responds by Facebooking. We’ve all had bad classes and subpar profs, and if you’re like me you hated that. And you might gripe about it, as I did. But you didn’t respond by doodling and opting out. In truth, some of the best work I ever did as an undergrad happened in classes with some of the worst profs. I was a cocky know-it-all, sure – and that led me to respond to profs I didn’t think much of by trying to prove them wrong with my work.

    3: In observing what I earlier termed the “pro-Lena” response, I was thinking sort of what you say at the end – that despite it all, she sounds brighter and more articulate than many of the NCLB “flotsam” out there. Hey, she can construct sentences and paragraphs, and that’s more than I can say for some graduating seniors I’ve seen.

    But this doesn’t excuse the lack of respect. Yes, a lot of people around here were 19 year-olds. All of us, in fact. But I remember being 19 and full of myself, and the idea of calling out a prof like this? Holy shit, I’d have died. Even if I disagreed, or thought the prof was a bad teacher, or thought he/she was a 140 year-old geezer, at the core was a fundamental respect for the position and what it took to accomplish it.

    I think this is at the core of what gripes me. Lena doesn’t respect anything. If you want her respect you earn it by telling her she’s right and has been since the day she was born.

    Ah, now I’m talking like I know her again. Well, as you know – probably as well as anybody here or better – we all operate on educated guesses. And nothing feeds those guesses like experience. It’s what it means to be an expert. You deal with a lot of X, and the next time you’re dealing with something in the class of X and it behaves the way X has behaved, you draw inferential conclusions. It’s important not to think yourself omniscient, but it’s also important to trust your experience.

    I’m saying I’ve seen a lot that looks and sounds exactly like Lena Antman. I may be wrong, but I’d bet a lot of money that I’m not.

    That we were 19, that we were know-it-alls, that we were smartasses (and still are, in some cases) is a little off the point – most of us weren’t 19 year-old smartass know-it-alls like THIS – and it doesn’t excuse her behavior. We tolerate acting out from the really smart kids – I know I always did when I was teaching – because we’re experts on smart and we recognize it and want to encourage it. I have no problems at all when a kid is a smartass like I was.

    But we have a hard time when we get that kind of ‘tude from a kid who ISN’T very smart, and demonstrates that lack of superiority at every turn.

  24. Euphrosyne:

    Not to pile on you (well, OK, I’m piling on), Lena isn’t one of your 9th grade goslings. As a college freshman, there’s about a 99% chance that she’s eligible to vote in the upcoming election. This young adult didn’t complain only to her peers, her teachers, or even her teachers’ department heads. She went after an entire university and its faculty in the most public forum around.

    Should she not be held accountable for her actions because she is young? And is being called out on Scholars and Rogues such a terrible thing? I believe our readership numbers are a bit short of USA Today.

    Coincidentally, I had a conversation with my daughter this weekend about middle school math. She doesn’t care for math, and it’s beginning to show up in her grades as the material becomes more demanding and her study habits do not. Her first excuse was, “I have a terrible teacher.” I didnt think about Lena at the time. I just told her what I told her older brother and what I firmly believe:

    Learning is your resposibility. No teacher can teach you anything. You can learn. A teacher can help. But if a teacher isn’t helping much, you can still learn, and we expect it of you and you need to expect it of yourself. If you need help outside school, we will get you help. But it is your responsibility to recognize when you need help and to ask for it. If you don’t learn, if you don’t use the resources at your disposal to learn, we will have to step in to make sure it happens.

    We think you’d rather do it on your own, but it’s your choice.

    Let me reiterate a few things. Lena says she’s “learned how to stretch two pages of information into a 10-page paper.” She attends a university with over two million books in the libary. And she needs to stretch information to fit? She blames her school and teachers for this? She uses Facebook in class? She says she’s payng *(snorfle*) for her education. Can we help it if she’s deliberately trying NOT to get what she’s paying for?

    C’mon, Euphronsyne. If anyone ever deserved to be called out for sloppy thinking and a self-centered view of her world, it’s Lena Antman.

  25. I have to say, I’m siding with the “anti-Lena” crowd on this one. And I wonder if she’s some kind of suburban Denver wanna-be princess – not smart enough or motivated enough to make more out of her opportunities while someone is writing the $8,000 check. And the whole idea of respect for professors – I like that. I like it more the farther I get from 40. (Alas, I’ve become the person I hated when I was 25.)

    Disclosure – I have a B.A. in English with minors in sociology and economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (class of ’87 WOOO!!!! not). No ed-block. No way in hell was I going to teach. (Go ahead and beat me to death on my lack of writing skills – I’ve been programming for over a decade now and am happy to get out an e-mail that is coherent.)

    Why did I go there? My mom and step-dad were public school teachers in small-town Nebraska. I got scholarships and financial aid to foot some of the bill, loans for more of it and worked part-time to full-time to graduate in 5 years.

    What I learned in my first year at UN-L: My ass would’ve been kicked from here to eternity in a high-caliber private (or even state) school. The incoming freshman from the “city” were so much better prepared for the material than I was, coming from my b-f Nebraska graduating class of 29. I did a lot of catch-up during the first year.

    I also learned that no one takes care of you. (If you are me, that is – I had to navigate the financial aid system on my own – no one wrote any checks for me – a skill that has served me well as an adult.) Time to write a letter bitching about how bored I was in college? Doubtful.

    Finally, I learned that there was no way in hell I was going to be a business major (hence the switch to the “contract” English degree by year 3). Gee, didn’t it suck during the “greed is good” 80s! But all those econ courses did interest me.

    Education IS what you make of it. I seem to have turned out all right. (But then, I’ve also continued taking classes, expanding my skills, and moved from business operations into programming and analysis – I get bored easily.)

    I’ve just completed registering my daughter for her freshman year at a suburban high school in an International Baccalaureate program. We spent more time on this than I spent planning out my entire college path.

    Do I want my daughter to attend UN-L or a similar school? No. Her prospects and expectations are much higher than my own were.

    She’s so much better off being around a group of 300+ 8th graders and the resources that a well-funded, suburban school district have to offer. And navigating the 2500 student high school in her district and taking advantage of all it has to offer will prepare her for college in ways I never could have imagined.

    Now my other one, the boy – we’ll be really proud if he manages to nail down a degree from a respectable state school. 🙂

  26. So my question, JS, is where did YOU go to school? Lena has a good point. Most students can’t afford going to college at all, let alone going into debt over getting, as you say, a “real education.” Some state schools are better than some non-state schools anyway. CU has amazing programs in many different areas. I’m sure at some point in time you were a Lena Antman, not everyone loves school all the time. Her editorial was just that, an editorial. It was written for extra credit in a class. No one has motivation at the end of a year in college, and I’m sure that if you ask any high school kids what they thought about their schools, their responses would be similar to what Lena wrote.
    I think that this comment that YOU wrote ” If anyone ever deserved to be called out for sloppy thinking and a self-centered view of her world, it’s Lena Antman,” is more offensive than anything Lena wrote in her article. You don’t know anything about her and you don’t have a place to make these sort of comments.

  27. It’s good to know that all the educated adults who post on this website are so superior and knowledgeable that they have the authority to criticize and insinuate things about an 18 year old girl who they don’t even know. Your lives must be very fulfilling.

  28. Peter: So no matter what somebody says or does in public, you can only criticize them if you know them personally?

    I’d bet my house that’s a standard you don’t live by, hmmmm?

  29. Mandy:

    As I said, I know a few great CU kids personally. I also know scores of drones. I feel sorry for the motivated, smart kids who are forced to attend CU for one reason or another and have to be in class with the mouth breathers. CU is, at best, an average state school. US News rankings of a year ago suggest that, if dropped into the California, CU would be tied for 8th best school in the state, and there are 22 states with higher ranked schools than CU.

    I know CU profs who bemoan the fact that they have to dumb down their classes for the quality of student they get (remember, 80% plus are admitted to CU). I can imagine what it must be like to have 2 million books in the library (not to mention on-line resources and periodicals), and have students say they have to stretch two pages of information to fit ten pages.

    CU has very few “amazing” programs. I suppose you’re studying low-energy physics at CU? Tell me, do you know more than the Nobel Laureates with whom you work?

    Thought so.


    I believe you said “insinuate” when you meant “infer,” as in “JS O’Brien inferred certain things from what Lena wrote.” I “insinuated” (or implied) nothing. I came right out and said what I thought. Are you, too, a CU student or grad?

    Thought so.