Every once in a while, some poor sadsack will break his way out of the Harvard dungeon, and try to tell the world that Cambridge is actually a freaky Stepford hellhole where people wear crimson sweatshirts because they hide the blood. Usually this does nothing more than give Yale a superiority hard-on. But this time the sadsack is a Harvard junior named Alexander Heffner, and this time he’s writing for US. News and World Report.
Heffner’s piece, which has been making the rounds on the Internet, says what most of us already know about going to Harvard: don’t. His biggest complaints concern the faculty/student ratio in most classes, and the fact that people would rather gather in little groups and flash their Final Club rings à la Type-A Captain Planet than talk to you in the dining hall. Heffner writes:
For nearly the past three years, I have been a student at Harvard, a university whose formula for undergraduate prestige has created an international reputation far beyond that of even its closest competitors. But as any undergraduate who actually attends the school knows, the Harvard education is overrated. Harvard’s traditional emblem of Veritas, in practice, is a one-dimensional search for truth that weds students more to cold facts than to their teachers or classmates.
….For three centuries, Harvard has led a masterful public relations campaign to claim the mantle of what is best in American education, even if that means less community, less intimate interaction with professors and classmates, less “we” and more “me.” In reality, more often than not, faculty here are inaccessible, students are unengaged interpersonally, and two way education is an anathema.
Down with cold facts! IvyGate hates those. Heffner isn’t the first to express ambivalence about his chosen education, or remark publicly on his unhappiness. Complaining about Harvard seems to be a requirement of attending Harvard, in the same way that owning a Ferrari gives you license to bitch about the price of premium gas. But Heffner, to be clear, isn’t looking for sympathy. He’s trying to warn the girls over at Harvard, Please that they should tranquilize themselves while they’ve still got the chance:
Don’t make the same mistake. If you receive a notice of acceptance from the Harvard admissions office next month, enjoy the moment, but consider how disappointed you may be three years from now. If you aren’t accepted, or if you never applied, consider yourself fortunate: you will receive a better education in the bargain.
Just in case you’re starting to think that Heffner is some kind of grassroots hillbilly with a full scholarship and a heart of gold who woke up one day to find his nose to the Harvard grindstone, we should probably also tell you that the kid went to Andover. And if his raves about its intimacy are any judge, apparently courses at Andover consist of sleepover powwows on the area rug and fresh-baked cookies from somebody’s grandma:
I remember being impressed by the student-teacher ratio—small classes, sometimes just four or five people—and by learning so much about and from each other. I often feel obliged to tell people, even if they don’t ask, that it was Andover (not Harvard) that taught to me to think and write critically.
We don’t want to disparage Heffner too much, because he has a point about those huge lecture courses–it’s hard to do anything but play Sporcle and sporadically drool. But that’s the beauty of an Ivy League education, no? Skip the kumbaya and go straight for the bonus! We’re betting Heffner will last another week before Harvard calls in its PR SWAT team–or before he’s sacrificed and eaten by a group of rabid McKinsey interns.