Monday, November 29, 2010

FLG Isn't Sure It Matters

Alpheus writes in the comments:
people like to make quick decisions on the basis of easily observable markers, and as long as the average Harvard student is superior to the average student from, say, Wesleyan, it's not going to matter that much that the top fifty students from Wesleyan are light years ahead of the bottom fifty students at Harvard.

This isn't really to contradict the main thrust of Alpheus' comment, and perhaps FLG, as a Georgetown grad, is self-interested or self-deluded here, but his personal observations indicate that there's no real difference between the capabilities of students at, say, the top 50 schools.

Sure, Harvard students have higher SAT scores, etc, but the law of diminishing returns starts to kick in at some point, and that's well before the difference between the average student at Wesleyan and Harvard. So, perhaps Harvard students are better according to some metrics, but FLG isn't convinced that they are relevant metrics in 99.99% of situations.


Alpheus said...

For the record, I pulled the number fifty out of, um, nowhere. I could easily believe that the difference among the student bodies at good schools is even less than my comment suggested.

Withywindle said...

Keeping in mind the continuing decay throughout makes comparisons difficult. Harvard students were doubtless more competent a generation ago; and Wesleyan students too; who knows what the comparative rate of decay has been? And then there is a sense of perspective: if the top 50 schools have student bodies who are effortlessly literate, this puts them all miles above their competition--but then, this is a rather low bar. Once you start examining them for the actual skills you would expect of college students, there may be significant differentials.

(I know, I know, I'm repeating myself. But every time these discussions come up, I find they need a dollop of jaundice.)

Harvard students are well educated to serve, but one occasionally wonders if they have the capacity to be free men. Milanese, not Florentines.

Robbo said...

Well, speaking as a very average and rapidly decaying Wesleyan student myself, we always thought that going to Harvard was slumming it.

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