Every day, I pass by the wise words of former Cornell President Hunter R. Rawlings III in Goldwin Smith gatekeeping the entrance to the Temple of Zeus: “Genuine education is not a commodity, it is the awakening of a human being.”
Though I will not argue here about whether the education at Cornell is to be considered genuine or not, I have often thought that if it costs over $60,000 a year to awaken myself, I’d much rather have stayed in bed. I assume that the notion of a genuine education is tightly linked to age-old sayings like “explore your interests” and “follow your passion.” And I assume that awakening a human being probably involves something more than an alarm clock. The author of the quote I pass each day was probably thinking in more abstract terms of becoming an engaged citizen and a better person. But isn’t spending a couple hundred thousand dollars to allow clueless 18 year-olds to spend four years removed from society in the pursuit of vague ideas like self-improvement and intellectual rigor just a way to say that you’re rich? I didn’t come to Cornell to become a better person.