November 11, 2010

Seance With the Founders: Away With Thine Education

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The administration’s decision to cut the Department of Education left students and faculty numerous questions: Can Cornell be considered an elite university without an education department? Is the University getting away from its land-grant mission? Wait, we have an education department? In an attempt to provide some answers, The Sun dusted off its venerable spellbook and recalled the spirits of this fine University’s two founders — Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White.

Ezra Cornell spirit: (sleepily) Well, what is it now? Last time you wanted my opinion, it didn’t do any good — they ended up bulldozing that redbud grove, anyway.

A.D. White’s spirit: They needed more parking spots! You expect these kids — the future leaders of America — to walk from place to place? They’ve gotta leave daddy’s Land Rover somewhere.

The Sun: Well here’s the deal, Cornell eliminated its Department of Education this —

Ezra: What! This is outrageous. An educational institution with no education program? A university producing no teachers, principals, or volleyball coaches? Dammit, I founded this university on a simple mantra, “any person, any study.”

A.D.: (mockingly) Aw look at the little founder getting all bent out of shape. He’s so cute.

Ezra: Real mature, A.D. The institution me, you and 600 unpaid laborers built is being picked apart, brick by brick, and you are sitting here making fun of me. This is serious stuff.

A.D.: Oh really? What sort of people does the education department produce?

Ezra: Teachers, principals, national leaders on education reform.

A.D.: Also known as peons. There’s no seven-figure salaries in education. No chance for rise to the ranks of New York socialite. There’s no value in it really. Since the beginning, this University has been designed to produce the good, diligent capitalists that this nation desperately needs. Not a bunch of losers who only work nine months a year and can’t even afford a vacation home.

Ezra: You’re cruel. Have a heart, comrade. This country already has a problem finding good teachers — didn’t you see Waiting for Superman?

A.D.: Yeah, whatever. Despite the questionable claims made in that diet version of An Inconvenient Truth, from what my sources tell me, the education system is doing swimmingly. And whatever teachers our country needs, they can get them elsewhere. Cornell churns out captains of industry, U.S. senators, acclaimed authors. And the University needs to cut back, plain and simple. Wouldn’t you rather focus on our areas of strength? Or try to teach everything, but excel at nothing?

Ezra: Are you crazy? I founded an institution where any person could find study in any field!

A.D.: Seriously, if you say “any person, any study” one more time, I’m going to beat the shit out of you.

Ezra: Wow, now you’re introducing violence again. I see, you can’t keep a conversation civil for more than five minutes. Classy, Andy, classy.

A.D.: Call me Andy again and see what happens you commie.

Ezra: Three-eyed loon!

A.D.: Barnacle-blasting bumpkin!

(they wrestle)

Sun: Guys, guys, get a grip, you’re the founders for Christ’s sake.

Ezra: You’re right, faceless moderator — A.D., I apologize for calling you that name.

A.D.: That was low, man, real low.

Sun: Okay, let’s wrap this up before you guys really hurt each other. Closing arguments?

Ezra: Let the Yale-lover go first.

A.D.: … fine, someone has to be the bigger founder. Ultimately, it’s a simple matter: Cornell has to trim back somewhere, and while having an education department is nice in theory, is it worth compromising the quality of some of our trademark majors, like biology or even architecture?

Ezra: Wow, while I disagree with your assessment, I actually respect your sincerity. I wouldn’t have expected it from someone who originally wanted to build my university in that morally depraved Petri dish Syracuse … But it’s not surprising that a money-grubbing silver-spooner like you would want to eliminate any department that produces some social good. I’ve got four words for you, “any person, any study.”

A.D.: You’re really never going to stop saying that, are you?

Sun: Alright guys, thanks for weighing in on this issue for us. Until next time, back to the underworld for both of you.