Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Interesting op-ed in yesterday's New York Times, Brand U., by Stephen Budiansky:
I recently did some research for a satirical novel set at a university. The idea was to have a bunch of gags about how colleges prostitute themselves to improve their U.S. News & World Report rankings and keep up a healthy supply of tuition-paying students, while wrapping their craven commercialism in high-minded-sounding academic blather. I would keep coming up with what I thought were pretty outrageous burlesques of this stuff and then run them by one of my professor friends and he'd say, Oh, yeah, we're doing that....
I knew that Tom Lehrer, the great satirical songwriter of the 60's, had said he had to give up satire when it kept being overtaken by reality. The final straw, he said, was Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace Prize. My final straw came when a friend at Case Western Reserve University (now referred to as Case, after their consultant concluded that all great universities have single-word names) sent me a packet of information on the university's new showcase undergraduate seminar program. Called SAGES (this supposedly stands for Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship), the program offers as an essential component of its core intellectual experience an upscale cafe that serves Peet's Coffee and is "staffed by baristas whose expertise in preparing espresso is matched only by their authoritative knowledge of all things SAGES."
(Hat Tip: Ann Murphy.)