I'm going to take a couple-post break from all of the heavy Mormon-related blogging. I know that my disappoint the core readership at this blog, but it will be short-lived I promise. But I am going to have a couple of posts devoted to my alma mater, Duke. It's my blog and I'll do what I want.
The following appeared in the October 2007 Towerview, the campus student-run magazine:
"Everyone's got a hard-on about Harvard, Yale and Princeton that stems from a time when the country was smaller and you only needed three schools to educate the bastards...[Duke] hasn't been around long enough to turn out finely tuned assholes. Young egoists, but not ego-maniacs."
- Dana Vachon, Duke '02, author in New York City
Vachon, who earlier calls the education at Duke "flagrantly mediocre" has, for better or worse, hit the nail on the head. While I love my university, I have never been bowled over by the level of education offered at the school or the intellectual passion of my classmates. I never attended one of the HYPS (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford) schools, so I don't have much ground for comparison. However, I have consistently been surprised at how highly Duke is ranked. I understand that not all of the ranking is tied up in the quality of the undergraduate education, and it should not be. Universities are responsible for so much more than turning out 22-year olds with a better-than-high-school education.
Duke does not attract the hard-core intellectual and academic types. Based on my own perception, and not statistics, Duke undergrads do not generally go on to Ph.Ds in humanities and go on to lead other universities; they tend to go the pre-professional route and lead companies, law firms, and hospitals. Coming from my small-town background, I have wondered in the past if mine could have been that great "American Dream" story of going to HYPS. But you can't change history, and I remain very grateful that a school like Duke took a chance on a kid from a hick town in rural eastern NC.