Presenting the GCRS
November 11, 2010
As a break from the usual literary meanders, this post offers a more practical message.
It’s the time of year when American high school students begin to think seriously, or evasively, about colleges, anticipating and dreading their escape from parents, wondering whether to head east, west, or straight into mind-altering substances. Parents, too, debate how best to quit themselves of their offspring without incurring uncomfortable levels of debt or guilt.
To aid everyone concerned in this search for liberation, I humbly offer the Gridley College Rating System (GCRS), which is based not on esoteric criteria like faculty eminence or course requirements but on commonsense, easily observable characteristics that can be quantified on a single college tour. After trying it myself, I can testify that it works just as well as college guides and get-acquainted sessions.
For each of the following ten items, simply choose an appropriate score from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). Then add the numbers to produce the total rating. Scores preceded by a plus sign are treated as positive numbers; those preceded by a minus sign are negative. A brief rationale follows each item.
1. Ability of tour guides to walk rapidly backwards, talk continuously, point in several directions at once, and answer three simultaneous questions without falling down stairs.
(Because tour guides are usually students themselves, a high score on this item indicates that the college provides good training in multitasking, which will eventually allow graduates to spend six hours a day playing online games without impairing their productivity.)
2. Number of busts of dead white men visible on campus.
(Statues commemorating eminent white men, especially ones you don’t recognize, are a key to the college’s connection to the Old Boy Network, ever more critical in today’s economy. Without such connections, a graduate may need to do real work for a living.)
3. Number of busts of live white men visible on campus.
(Those old men with sagging chests are probably tenured professors, and their lack of physical conditioning suggests that they place their emphasis elsewhere—on academics, for example, a painful thought.)
4. Comfort of the chairs in the waiting room of the Admissions Office.
(Pleasant, upholstered chairs are designed to soothe visitors’ posteriors so that their wallets slide more easily from their pockets. Beware of hidden fees.)
5. Prevalence of red brick in the college buildings.
(Red brick is solid. Strong. Traditional. Unimaginative. Exactly the qualities a modern graduate needs.)
6. Number of working light bulbs in the desk lamps of the dormitory rooms.
(If you’re allowed to visit dorm rooms, they will most likely be unoccupied, and if the most recent residents didn’t discover that they should abscond with everything removable, they didn’t learn much, did they?)
7. Quality of the college lawns.
(Lawns as perfectly manicured as the greens of a private golf course are another clue to entrée into the Old Boy Network. However, you must reduce the college’s score on this item if you see anyone WORKING on the lawns. The immigrant labor should remain invisible.)
8. Number of books visible on the first floor of the college’s main library.
(BOOKS??? Instead of computers???)
9. Number of coffee shops within two blocks of campus.
(This item needs little explanation, but I’ll recount my niece’s reaction on a college tour with her parents. Asleep in the back seat, she woke up as the car pulled into a charming little town that housed an elite private college. After a three-second glance around, she said, “Forget it. I’m not getting out of the car here. There’s no Starbucks.”)
10. Number of disheveled thirty- and forty-somethings rushing through the parking lots or stumbling along the paths.
(These are the adjunct faculty members who teach most of the courses. Harried and exhausted, they rush from one campus to another in their eight-year-old Honda wagons to eke out a living from institutions that deny them full-time jobs and adequate salaries. Nearly all colleges employ such labor, but the good ones know how to hide the servant class. Compare #7 above.)
EVALUATING YOUR SURVEY: As mathematically inclined readers will already have noticed, a perfect score on the survey is +25 on the positive items and –5 on the negative ones, for a total of +20. The closer an institution approaches to 20, the better it reflects the ideal American collegiate experience. A typical U.S. college earns a score of absolute zero.