Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Are we Intellectual?

<e were many great things about this summer. Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg, an iPod Touch small enough for Barbie to use, Obama’s consistent heroism and S-Pos the Boss (choose your favorite CLAP nickname here) moving into Northfield. We The Carletonian enjoyed all of this immensely (most particularly the latter) but we also discovered something magical on the Internet that revolutionized our ability to find meaningless college rankings, all in one convenient location. It was, and it rocked our world.

We were unsurprised to find ourselves once again in the top ten Liberal Arts Colleges in America in late August, (though we’re even more unsurprised when our own relatives have still never heard of Carleton). In the September 7th online edition of The Huffington Post, we were ranked as the second most intellectual college in America. This first confused us, and then it got us thinking. What on earth does it mean to be an intellectual school? Has Carleton somehow created an aura of being a school for intellectuals as opposed to non-intellectuals? Obviously, admissions looks for students with strong academic histories, but does being book smart make us this much of an intellectual powerhouse?

The rest of The Huffington Post list includes the following schools: Brown, Grinnell, Haverford, Macalester, Pomona, Reed, Swarthmore, University of Chicago, and Wesleyan University. Obviously all of these lists are somewhat contrived and based on stereotypes, but common themes among the “most” intellectual schools are that they are small Liberal Arts colleges. One thing about a small liberal arts college is that it naturally fosters the “intellectual” stereotype that is being judged in this list. Class sizes are naturally small and discussions in class are the norm, which is in stark contrast to schools based on large lecture classes where the professors simply present the knowledge to students. The mere design of the liberal arts college teaches students, as we’ve heard time and time again, how to think.

Our two cents: these lists are absurd. To claim that a school is intellectual means absolutely nothing. Schools have defining characteristics and identities, but schools themselves are not intellectual, people are. Yes, Carleton has an abundance of students and professors who could be classified and might even be self-proclaimed intellectuals, but at the same time there are students who are by no means intellectual, and certainly wouldn’t claim to be. That isn’t to say they aren’t bright and intelligent, they just aren’t the intellectual types. Some of us came here to play sports, others to join Quiz Bowl, others for no particular reason and are still figuring out why they came here.

Of course having other people say how wonderful Carleton feels great, and to some people might provide some form of satisfaction or acceptance, but when it comes down to it what other people think of this school makes no difference. They might think we have the best teachers, and that we are huge nerds But as students here, we are the only ones who can judge what our school is like and how it is able to educate and prepare us for a lifetime of work, service, or any other path that we decide to pursue once we leave.

Welcome back to Carleton, intellectual powerhouse or maybe just another college that figured out what a good idea small class sizes are, and how great it is to be surrounded by a bright, diverse community of students desiring to learn more.

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