Penn Student’s Annoying Email the Latest in Ivy League’s Obsession with Numbers

A few days before Christmas, some poor Penn student in computer science professor Steve Zdancewic’s “Programming Languages and Techniques” class didn’t like the grade Zdancewic (or, probably, one of his 16 assistants) posted for him, and, yup, immediately dashed off a bothersome email to say so.

Less important than how or why The Daily Pennsylvanian posted this email—the student sent it to the listserv for a class of 200-odd students, duh—is the dark, hilarious content therein. Shall we?

“It’s possible I’ve made a calculation error . . .  but I do not believe so.” Or, YOU ARE WRONG. The two subsequent emails are sort of tedious—Zdancewic tells him what’s what and that’s that, then the student basically calls him incompetent, and that he (the student) is “confused.” And so on. Still, it’s sort of amazing to see this example, in fine detail, of the Ivy League’s historic and rather total obsession with its own quantification. This is a habit seen in the daily newspapers’ endless admissions coverage—e.g., see here, and here, and here, and here, and here—plus, it goes without saying, the U.S. News & World Report rankings and its imitators, which are always world-stoppingly important and intrinsically meaningful.

But take anything the Ivy League likes. Harry Potter, let’s go with. (Bear with me.)  Read the rest of this entry »