In a New York Times article titled, “The Fundamental Way That Universities Are an Illusion,” Kevin Carey digs beneath the outer-most layer of schools – ultimately finding little in the way of a unified, coherent educational personality. When we peel away the outermost layers of universities, Carey writes, all that’s left are individual teachers – all armed with their own idiosyncrasies. The teachers, not the school, make the education.
Carey likens each teacher, in each wildly different department, to an entrepreneur—bringing to the table his or her very own approach to the education of students. The type of education students receive at U Penn, for example, wholly depends on the individual classes students take, the professors who teach those classes, and the departments those classes are in.
So is a Williams College education unlike a Northwestern one? That depends on the teachers. This understanding of what makes schools different is especially important to keep in mind during the college process; it matters less where you land, and far where you place yourself once you’re there.
On the outside, colleges might give off a distinct personality. But once you strip back a few layers, the outer coherence gives way to radical inner variation. A couple teachers will shape your education, not the school you attend.
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