Harvard University is America’s oldest; world renown for its educational excellence, and its President who said women are too stupid to study science. The tour I was on was led by one of those keen undergraduate students – y’know the ones who are trying to earn brownie points, so that they have something to say on their CV when they are running for student office, applying for a scholarship, or filling out the employment form at their local Burger King. As honourable as her intentions are to flip burgers and contribute to Fat America’s love of fast food, I couldn’t help but reminisces of a lot of people I knew at University. She was one of those high-school geeks, with acne and glasses. Now, at university, she got herself some Clearasil and contacts, and after dropping a few party pills, proclaims to now be “cool” with her other ex-geek friends.
The tour-guide also reminded me of Sydney University’s propaganda. Her talk about Harvard university wanting “well-balanced” people, giving them the whole education, nearly made me laugh, because it was the same shit I heard throughout my university experience. It’s funny how a person who studies Latin in her spare time, and thinks breathing is a sport, believes she is part of that a “well-balanced” philosophy.
The tour was fairly interesting, although I must admit, I expected things to look a little classier. However the classiest thing about Harvard is the logo, which has “Truth” in Latin on it – a funny irony when you look at the statue of John Harvard. It claims John Harvard was the founder (he wasn’t – Massachusetts Bay Colony was); it claims it was founded in 1838 (was actually 1836); and even the statue itself is a fake – the guy that made it had no idea what Harvard looked like and so just put a random face on it.
My favourite story of the tour was about the library. Apparently, there was this mega-geek kid who loved collecting old books. Mummy paid for a trip to Europe where he went rare-book collecting, as you do when you go to Europe, and stumbled on some book that made him orgasm in excitement. So excited he was, that he decided to cut his trip home and return to America to show his books. Unfortunately, the ride home was on the Titanic.
Mother was distraught, and in memory of her son, she donated a big wad of money to Harvard to create a permanent library. However, there were three conditions that had to be met, otherwise funding would be revoked and she would haunt the place.
First of all, they had to maintain a little area with a picture of mega-geek son, and a fresh flower was to be placed there every day. “No problems there”, I am sure the Harvard council said back then, grabbing the cash. Unfortunately, the other two requests were a little weirder
The mother of mega-geek, quite logically I think, thought that if her son knew how to swim, then he would have survived the ship-wreck. After all, the Atlantic ocean, surrounded by ice-bergs, would have be a simple swim at the beach by today’s standards. So mother of mega-geek prescribed that every student had to know how to swim, if they were to graduate. And up until very recently, every student had to pass a swimming test (they stopped it because of discrimination laws).
The third request was that the no brick, mortar or piece of stone was to be ever removed. This poses a bit of a problem for a growing library, that is already four floors high, and six under the ground. The solution was discovered by a Harvard legal team, who had poured over the legal document, suggesting that they would remove the glass of a window and create a walkway to an adjacent building through the window. Although they removed the bridge last year, I thought that was fairly clever. I always knew academics had a place in our world. If only they can get out of their world, and join ours, we would be so much more better off.
An Italian guy, whose facial expressions made it out like he was trying to shit razor-blades, ended up asking a question about fees. The tour leader said it cost about $35,000-40,000 a year, but that also includes boarding and unlimited food – and all students are forced with that package. Although that was in US Dollars, I didn’t think that was too bad, considering at Sydney University you have to pay $20,000 for a college and a full-fee law degree costs about $15,000 a year. Whilst $200,000 for a degree is a bloody lot of money, it would be semi-worth it if the education was world-class.
One thing the guide mentioned, which was interesting, was that students are required to have a broad education as as well as a specialty. For example, you study your specialty such as accounting or French, but you also have to do subjects in seven of the 11 subjects areas furthest away from your discipline.
Harvard came across as sub-standard, when the tour-leader talked about the equivalent to tutorial classes – which average 15-20 people. I don’t care how good an education is, if you have overcrowded lectures and overcrowded tutorials, it’s like looking at the difference between dog shit and bat shit: it’s the same shit with a different smell.
Before I arrived, I had illusions that Harvard would be a cool place to study. Fuzzy haired geeks, sitting under a tree with apples dropping on their heads, and then writing up a complicated math’s formula that solves world poverty. Or overgrown oafs, playing football with that jackarse kid that no one liked at school. I was thinking ground-breaking research, world-class facilities, and really hot chicks. Alas, I walked out of the place realising that the only people that go to Harvard are rich geeks, and well-connected jocks. Harvard may be a great institution, but my impression of its undergraduate program, is that it’s just another brand is today’s commodity-business education market.