The existence of multiple forms of intelligence has become a commonplace, but however much elite universities like to sprinkle their incoming classes with a few actors or violinists, they select for and develop one form of intelligence: the analytic. While this is broadly true of all universities, elite schools, precisely because their students (and faculty, and administrators) possess this one form of intelligence to such a high degree, are more apt to ignore the value of others. One naturally prizes what one most possesses and what most makes for one’s advantages. But social intelligence and emotional intelligence and creative ability, to name just three other forms, are not distributed preferentially among the educational elite.
I had many fine teachers during my years at Princeton, but the one I think of most often was my fortune-telling professor, a complete hag with wild gray hair, warts the size of new potatoes, the whole nine yards. She taught us to forecast the weather up to two weeks in advance, but ask for anything weightier, and you were likely to be disappointed.
The alchemy majors all wanted to know how much they'd be making after graduation. "Just give us an approximate figure," they'd say, and the professor would shake her head and cover her crystal ball with a little cozy given to her by one of her previous classes. When it came to our futures, she drew the line, no matter how hard we begged -- and I mean, we really tried. I was as let down as the next guy, but, in retrospect, I can see that she acted in our best interest. Look at yourself on the day that you graduated from college, then look at yourself today. I did that recently, and it was like, "Yikes! What the hell happened?"
The answer, of course, is life. What the hag chose not to foretell -- and what we, in our certainty, could not have fathomed -- is that stuff comes up. Weird doors open. People fall into things. Maybe the engineering whiz will wind up brewing cider, not because he has to, but because he finds it challenging. Who knows? Maybe the athlete will bring peace to all nations, or the class moron will go on to become president of the United States -- though that's more likely to happen at Harvard or Yale, schools that will pretty much let in anybody.
"In the winter of 2004, under the leadership of President Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard transformed the financial aid landscape with its announcement that families with annual incomes below $40,000 would not be expected to pay for their sons or daughters to go to Harvard. The zero-contribution threshold was raised to $60,000 in 2006, with further reductions in parental contributions for families with incomes up to $80,000. Over the past three years, the number of students in these income ranges has increased by 33 percent, representing a quarter of the entering Class of 2011."*
"Harvard’s new financial aid policy dramatically reduces the amount families with incomes below $180,000 will be expected to pay. Families with incomes above $120,000 and below $180,000 and with assets typical for these income levels will be asked to pay 10 percent of their incomes. For those with incomes below $120,000, the family contribution percentage will decline steadily from 10 percent, reaching zero for those with incomes at $60,000 and below. For example, a typical family making $120,000 will be asked to pay approximately $12,000 for a child to attend Harvard College, compared with more than $19,000 under existing student aid policies. For a typical family with $180,000 of income, the payment would be approximately $18,000, compared with more than $30,000 today. The new standard reduces the cost to families by one-third to one-half, making the price of a Harvard education for students on financial aid comparable to the cost of in-state tuition and fees at the nation’s leading public universities. The new initiative also establishes a standard that students and their families can easily understand."*
"The kid who’s loading up on AP courses junior year or editing three campus publications while double-majoring, the kid whom everyone wants at their college or law school but no one wants in their classroom..."
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