Brill: A Swift guide to student selection

Education in America

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great university, peering into the classrooms of WLH, HGS or other three-lettered, hallowed halls of learning during shopping period. There, in crammed scenes of alacrity, young scholars sweat in the January swelter of uncertainty. They will shop and shop and shop the same course, and always end in the same place: “HIST/AMST/PLSC/EP&E/HSAR/ECON/FES/ENGL: The Seminar You Will Never Get Into.”

The admittance procedures for this course are clearly lacking for that most eager and accomplished sub-species of man, the Yale undergraduate. Pre-registration? A matter of chance, reserved for any Cretan with a MacBook Pro and too much vacation time. Preference to majors? Meaningless, since all Yalies know all there is to know in all walks of life. Preference to seniors? Nonsensical, as seniors blazing bold trails to Goldman Sachs, McKinsey and law school (read: 75 percent) will fall into lackadaisical complacency.

Therefore I submit a modest proposal for improving the methods by which professors choose their seminar students.

First, a vigorous review of the student’s elementary school record. Any token Eli can tout teenage statistics: 2400, 4.00, three Model U.N. awards, 12 faculty recommendations and six bicycle trips through Peru to examine the indigenous population’s socio-political-environmental economics while rappelling off the Himalayas and reciting “Gravity’s Rainbow” from memory. But only the chosen few can rest their laurels on their most formative years.

You therefore must submit finger paintings, macaroni collages and those ceramic coin bowls your dad never used for formal artistic analysis by Alexander Nemerov. David Bromwich will review your second grade book journal about Roald Dahl’s “BFG,” and John Gaddis will analyze your teacher’s report on recess skirmishes. With approval, you will proceed to the next round.

Next, you must write your final seminar paper by midnight after the first seminar. Perhaps this may seem a bit premature, but how better for the professor to know your abilities than to demonstrate them before you actually learn anything? In addition, since you probably won’t do three-quarters of the reading, this exercise will test your ability to make seemingly meaningful comments in the face of utter ignorance. And because you will inevitably need to fill your actual final paper with superfluous words and paragraph breaks, the writer of the longest paper automatically gains admission.

The third round will test the endurance of your discussion participation. Seminars usually fall into one of two categories: endlessly awkward or disturbingly competitive. In order to ensure the latter, professors will ask a random question, and point to two students to respond at once. The student who can speak for the longest without acknowledging or listening to the other student will move on. Eye-rolling, sighing and generally arrogant tones are encouraged throughout this round.

The penultimate round is quite simple: DKE, duck, goose. A few days ago on Cross Campus, pledges of Delta Kappa Epsilon gathered on the snowy grass for the age-old game, slipping and falling on their faces while older brothers looked on with Coors Lights in hand. The seminar version is similar, though prospective students must balance their laptops and notebooks on their heads at all times, and any student still up after three rounds is eliminated. The professor will observe while sipping a martini and is welcome to invite colleagues to join as spectators.

The fifth and final round, perhaps the most grueling, is jousting. No, not medieval, physical jousting, but rather virtual, mental jousting that takes place on the real home of seminars: Sporcle.com. Students spend no less than two-thirds of any seminar on their laptops, desperate for anything but the minutia of class time. As such, students should be expected to excel at their online exploits, specifically Sporcle quizzes that test a wide array of worthless trivia. The 18 students with the best scores on 10 random Sporcle quizzes win final admission to the course. Additional preference will be given to students who have five or more Gchat conversations and Facebook stalk three or more “friends.”

Finally, in the spirit of “My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss,” Fox’s greatest cancelled show, professors will end each round by pointing to the eliminated students and saying, “Get the hell out of my classroom.”

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary system. I have only one semester left of college, and only a few seminars to which I’m applying. Here’s hoping none of those professors reads this column.

Sam Brill is a senior in Trumbull College.

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