I was somewhat dismayed, but not altogether surprised, to see Steve Saltarelli’s article on the smugness that has infected the Class of 2013 (“2013: A Facebook Odyssey,” 9/18/09). I admit that I joined the Facebook group, and read the same threads that caused him such paternalistic despair. Before coming to Chicago, I might have written the exact same article: Certainly, I agree that there is evidence of much self-inflating that goes beyond the freshman’s endless need to prove oneself. But here I feel I must defend my newly arrived classmates, even the arrogant ones. Part of my defense of my class is that reading comments on Facebook boards, no matter who the commenters are, is like staring into the abyss. I can only be glad that when my class’s conversation becomes base, it is reduced to self-inflation rather than the vitriolic attack-counterattack of other discussion boards.
After seriously considering what is being said in the article, I wonder if Saltarelli has been drinking the same Kool-Aid that was force-fed to us during O-Week. These braggart freshmen enter the University of Chicago with egos only just recovered from the sting of Ivy rejection. They see the appeal of these ego-shielding sayings, and as they buy into this “scholarlier-than-thou” philosophy, they are more eager to prove themselves than before. But the role of the University is to break their dangerous, unstable egos. A good professor (or academic advisor) will convince a student that despite their ability to quote Locke and Hume, they are no better then anybody else in the University—even the guy who succumbs to alcohol poisoning by the second week of classes showed the admissions department useful traits. Put simply, the higher one climbs before college, the harder one falls; Icarus might have made a decent student here.
After breaking a student, the University’s job is to make them. The student finds the subject area in which they feel comfortable, and takes the opportunity to dabble in subjects in which he has a mild interest. They gain more confidence both socially and academically, and will hopefully become engaged enough in their own life to leave this college more mature than when they came. I don’t presume to judge any of my fellow classmates, but I end with an open question: How can an older student not see the pivotal role that overinflated egos play in the maturation process known as college?
Class of 2013