Academics at Carleton are extraordinary. It’s not a secret. U.S. News ranks Carleton seventh best amongst the nation’s liberal arts colleges and Forbes says that we’re 45th in the nation. With a 31% acceptance rate, it’s one of the most exclusive colleges in the States.
Carleton’s merit deserves due credit across the grid, from hard-working students to committed faculty and staff that creates a grotesquely high sense of companionship that can only be bred in the false little utopia in which it is contained.
But the school’s deepest merit, I believe, transpires within the classroom, when a dormant potential is awoken in students, and the pursuit of ideas feels expansive and ponderous, a sort of on-the-edge-of-your-seat immediacy. What happens within the walls of the classroom is a prolific privilege, a sacred 70 minutes or so where it’s encouraged to fade out the real world and focus solely on what the structure of polypeptide tells us about the universe, how the Peloponnesian War leaks traces of modern revolution, whether democracy is a universal human value, how to translate religious texts of 19th century Russia, or how we fit into the allegory of Plato’s cave. At Carleton, these words and books carefully construct the ivory tower.
We keep the tower furnished by showing up to class engaged and inspired and mentally charged. Sure, everyone has off days, and not every class can top that one you took that one time that literally made your mind tingle, but overall, Carleton students are pretty on par when it comes to school.
So why is it that, as soon as a class ends, just when the time is most ripe for discussion, students transform from brilliant little academics to stressed out Libe mongers? Why do so many Carleton students have split personalities inside and outside of the classroom? Why don’t we stop to explain to one another the content of that daylong paper we just wrote, instead of complain about the amount of time it took to write it?
There was once a thing started by seniors long since gone, a dinner group of sorts, where the sole purpose was to discuss a controversial debate from class or a scientific experiment or a creepy, unknown creature (for those of you who have not heard of the Camouflage Octopus, look it up). The point of the group was to keep the intellectual stimulation that is carried out in the classroom up outside of the classroom. And not for lack of a better word, they called it “COLLEGE.”