William Deresiewicz’s New Republic article, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” an inflammatory critique of the Ivy League, went viral this summer and sparked national debate about the nation’s top schools and the culture they create.
Princeton students had a chance to fire back at Deresiewicz, who came to Whig Hall Sept. 25 after visiting several other Ivy League schools to promote his book, Excellent Sheep. The book, which expands on the article, argues that elite universities train students to become “excellent sheep” — individuals who excel at completing tasks for their own sake, at the expense of self-discovery and direction.
After a talk by Deresiewicz, who attended Columbia and taught at Yale for a decade, students criticized the author’s proposals for reforming the college admission process, which include reducing applications to timed essays and evaluating applicants solely by their GPA. Continue reading
“Nobody actually successfully predicted this crisis,” Paul Krugman said in an Oct. 6 campus lecture about Europe’s recent economic crisis. “There were a few people who did predict it, but they also predicted 10 other crises that didn’t happen.”
Krugman, a Nobel laureate in economics and New York Times columnist, opened this year’s Walter E. Edge Lecture Series, drawing a full house at McCosh 50 and two additional rooms, where the audience watched on closed-circuit TV. The renowned economist will be retiring from Princeton and joining the faculty of the City University of New York at the end of the academic year.
Krugman shared “three real lessons” to learn from Europe. Lesson number one: “Not having a currency of your own is a very dangerous thing.” He explained the benefits of having a national currency by comparing Spain and Florida. Comparing the two real-estate busts, Krugman pointed out that “without anyone saying let’s bail out Florida, Florida received what amounted to insurance against the downturn,” thanks to federal safety nets. Spain had none of those and its large budget deficits engendered concerns about the country running out of money. In contrast, the United States cannot run out of money, “at least in the normal stage of events,” since it has its own currency. Continue reading
College campuses, with their homogeneous culture, “are in danger of becoming boring,” Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will ’68 warned at a talk in McCosh Hall Sept. 29.
Will, speaking at an event sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, touted Princeton as an institution where the freedom of exchange of ideas is not an ideal but a reality.
Professor Robert George, director of the Madison Program, reflecting on his experiences teaching on other campuses, said he noticed that at Princeton “we don’t shut people down. Our students feel comfortable expressing their opinions on term papers, junior papers, senior thesis, even if they dissent from campus orthodoxies, in most cases even if they deviate from the point of view from the professors who will be grading the exams or papers.”
Both Will and George lauded Princeton for its intellectually heterogeneous culture, not allowing one point of view to dominate the intellectual discourse. George cited John Stuart Mill’s philosophy of seriously considering opposing points of view to enhance one’s understanding of the subject matter and one’s own position. Continue reading
Ever have that nightmare where you still haven’t finished your thesis? Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson *86 has.
Returning to campus can counteract that “recurring nightmare,” Jackson said, addressing an audience of students, faculty, and community members in Dodds Auditorium April 9.
“I still have that nightmare that it’s the day before my master’s thesis defense. And I haven’t finished it, but I’m really stressed,” she said, the audience laughing. “But every time I’m here, it reinforces that I got the degree.”
Jackson, a chemical engineer who served as head of the EPA in the Obama administration from January 2009 until February of this year, recounted her personal story of how she came to define herself as environmentalist.
Noting that the word “environmentalist” has, in some circles, come to refer to environmental activism for political purposes, Jackson provided her own definition: An environmentalist is someone “who cares deeply about and prioritizes the environment — the environment, not as an outside concept, but more for its impact on our health, its impact on our well-being … and its impacts on our prosperity,” she said.
Jackson recalled learning about environmental issues during her undergraduate years at Tulane, when she first heard of the “soup of chemicals” in the Mississippi River causing problems downstream in New Orleans as well as the government’s inability to adequately respond to large-scale, hazardous environmental problems like the infamous Love Canal in upstate New York.
The struggle to strengthen human rights in China is far from over, dissident lawyer and rights activist Chen Guangcheng told a Princeton audience March 28, and we all have a responsibility to do more.
“In this global society, everything that takes place is closely connected to our lives, and this demands every one of us to take more responsibility, especially when faced with the imperfections and injustices of this world,” Chen said.
Chen, who spoke to more than 200 students, was this year’s recipient of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society’s James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service, the collegiate debating society’s highest honor.
A blind, self-taught lawyer, Chen has spent decades working to expose human rights violations in China — most famously battling aggressive enforcement of the country’s one-child policy. He organized a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of women forcibly sterilized by family planning officials before he was imprisoned on what supporters say were trumped-up charges in 2006. He drew international attention when he escaped house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in April 2012.
Many observers of the Israeli election Jan. 22 might think that the results boded well for restarting peace negotiations with the Palestinians. At a panel discussion March 11, two experts – Daniel Kurtzer, former ambassador to Israel; and Yael Berda, an Israeli lawyer, social activist, and Princeton Ph.D. student in sociology – were decidedly less optimistic.
The two spoke as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to try to form a government. Voting had left Netanyahu’s hawkish Likud party weaker, while a party focusing on secular economic interests – Yesh Atid (There is a Future) emerged as the second-largest party in parliament. After the election, many pundits argued that Yesh Atid’s strength heralded the rise of the moderate center that could get negotiations back on track.
Not so fast, the Princeton panelists said, noting that the peace process, and foreign policy in general, had largely been absent from the campaign. Almost seven weeks after the election, Netanyahu still was struggling to put together a government, and Yesh Atid had united with the pro-settler Jewish Home party in their coalition negotiations with Netanyahu. Meanwhile, the Likud party itself had moved to the right.
“It’s not likely that this coalition will make advances” toward peace with the Palestinians, Kurtzer said.
The panelists did identify two things that could change that, however. Berda suggested that a grassroots social-protest movement that developed in 2011 “changed politics on the ground,” and that the movement might reassert itself. Kurtzer looked for change beyond Israel’s border: “We don’t know if Washington will make it a priority,” he said.