Arieh Smith’s article “Expensive Waste” (4/14/09) is nothing but an unorganized, gibbering rant from a sanctimonious first-year lacking any pure or even practical reason. While the overvaluing of private colleges is a valid issue, Smith’s article resembles nothing close to an intelligent opinion, but rather, a random jumble of half-researched claims and self-righteous venting worthy of David Horowitz.
The entire paragraph, describing supply and demand of tuition costs, does nothing other than demonstrate Smith’s presence in Allen Sanderson’s introductory economics course. If Naked Economics is the only source of Smith’s informed opinion about economic value, the asymmetry of information between Smith and the University of Chicago is, well, asymmetric. Perhaps this explains Smith’s inability to realize the gaping flaw in the Dale–Krueger study—a single data point without any time evolution or normalization—which, ironically, was pounced on by Wheelan himself.
Regarding the many “unknown” private and public A-list schools in the College Prowler guide, one has to wonder whether Smith researched the $36,190 annual tuition for Reed College or even the $11,037 tuition for incoming in-state freshmen at the University of Michigan. I am unsure as to where the argument degenerated from an economic one of price tags to a sociological one of prestige, but I’ll leave Smith to play Six Degrees of Separation from Harvard.
The most fatal (and the most disturbing) flaw is Smith’s inability to realize a contradiction in his core argument. Read: “Some say that maybe places like the University of Chicago are essential to the functioning of a true democracy. I am extremely suspicious of such proclamations,” and juxtapose that against “In fact, the ‘classicization’ of [insert your favorite Greek author here] began only in the Renaissance, when ancient Greek was essentially rediscovered by the rebellious proponents of humanism.” Smith’s blindness to history is reflected in his gross ignorance of the founding of our nation: “To suggest that democracy depends on the sliver of the population that reads Aristotle is really pushing it.” In case it is not clear, Mr. Smith, the gross elitists you speak of are the Founding Fathers of this nation, and Aristotle enjoyed a slot on their bookshelf alongside Homer, Plato, Euripides, Dante, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, and others.
There truly is no substitute to the intrinsic value of combining a liberal arts education with the comprehensive research training our university provides. True, we may be able to immerse ourselves in the Great Conversation elsewhere, but if Smith continues to prattle on about “learning something useful or at least interesting [elsewhere],” he should immediately cease his unconscionable waste of the university’s time and transfer to the cheap “non-elite” colleges he so admires.
Daniel M. Choi
Class of 2010