On Civic Knowledge and Badmouthing that Freshman in Your POL Precept

[caption id="attachment_4692" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="Do you think they'd be proud?"]Do you think they'd be proud?[/caption]

Hey Princeton, think you’re learning useful things in those history classes? Think again, says the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). The institute administered civic engagement quizzes in 2007 and 2008 to individuals across the country (click here to try your hand at the quiz). Reaching a grand total of 16,508 adults and students at 50 colleges, the ISI returned some startling statistics.

Take, for example, this one: the average score of a senior on the civics knowledge test was a 54.2%. Or maybe this one: 30% of office holders didn’t know that “life, liberty, and happiness” are the inalienable rights to which the Declaration of Independence refers. Or how about this one: 51% of Americans were unable to name the three branches of government. Kind of scary, isn’t it?

But to those of you who suspect that Princeton might be the exception to the rule, here’s the kicker: college seniors across the U.S. showed an average 4-point improvement since freshman year. But Princeton? Not so much. Freshmen at Cornell, Yale, Princeton, and Duke scored better than seniors on the exam.

Hold on, what fine print told us that we were actually going to be unlearning while at Princeton? Because I certainly didn’t see it. Interesting, though, that the ISI website makes it a tad difficult to locate the average scores that yielded this discrepancy…

From these results, the ISI has determined the following:

Universities are becoming round the clock factories churning out poorly instructed liberals with little civic knowledge and even less faith and less devotion to principles of liberty than those Americans who didn’t go to college…what a formal education at one of America’s university [sic] does so effectively, however, is engender doubt in the American way of life, incubate irreverence for the pillars of liberty upon which the nation was built, and perhaps most disturbingly, sap the faith in God and the institutions of religious worship.

(Insert fist pumping here).

I guess this doesn’t bode well for the Woodrow Wilson School.

(image source: www.flickr.com)

At Mudd Now: Super Trendy Old School Publications

This Spring, the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library  chronicles the history of student publications at Princeton in an exhibit “Princetonians in Print: 175 Years of Student Publications at Princeton.” Drawing on the holdings of the University Archives housed at the Mudd Library, the exhibit includes original newspapers, artwork, photographs, letters, silkscreens, and artifacts.  

Here are some photographs from the from the exhibit.  Pine away for yesteryear! Just gloss over the whole anti-female, anti-minority part… Click for full-size images.[gallery link="file" columns="6" orderby="ID"]

(image source: http://blogs.princeton.edu/mudd)

The Curious Case of Chatroulette, II: Don’t I know you?

So you’re all caught up on the cultural phenomenon that is Chatroulette. And I’ve explained just how Princeton works in the mix. About how people think of Princetonians as these people quite literally locked away in an ivory tower, which is awkward because, do they even make towers made of ivory anymore?

But anyway, you’re meeting all these strange people and you think to yourself, Wouldn’t it be weird if I came across someone I knew? Someone… from Princeton?

“Oh hey ‘that guy’ in precept” — NEXT. “Yikes, girl who was sloshed last night and sang ‘Don’t Stop Believin” at the top of her lungs” — NEXT. “Professor?” — NEXT.

Not so for [REDACTED!] ’11 and Libby van Beuren ’11, and Matt de Jonge ’10. Yes, apparently these three (friends, Chatroulette’ing on separate accounts with no idea the other was doing so) found each other. On the site. When 16,216 users from all around the world were logged on.

From the comfort of Foulke, van Beuren and [REDACTED!] Next’d their way through their first awkward minutes of Chatroulette when…

Continue reading…

On sex and elitism in the Ivy League

Picture 1


The High School argument.  Over the years here, there’s been too many of these dustups to even begin to count. You know what I’m talking about: Public schools have bad teachers, Private schools are elitist, Prep schools are SUPER-elitist, and on and on and PUMP MY GAS on and onnnn… It’s garbage, all of it.

What were we talking about? Oh yes — the eternal, exhausting Public versus Private debate. Well, we’d say that each side’s talking points have been the same since time immerorial — but turns out that’s not the case.

In December 1957, Ivy Magazine ran point-counterpoint articles in favor of and against public schools — specifically, about how well prep-school and public school graduates fit in at Ivy League colleges. Interestingly, differently, both sides centered their cases around sex.  As in, “how much” and “what kind” the opposing side is having.  It gets vicious.

“Almost all the public high school graduates have had the benefit of adolescent contact with the opposite sex,” wrote Bryce E. Nelson in “Toddlers in Tweed,” the pro-public school piece.  “[The public school graduate’s] classmate has had a far different adolescence.”

Continue reading…

New Mario Kart Map: Frist Campus Center

Emilio Campos ’12 has a first name that sort of sounds like Mario. Therefore, it is only natural that he attire himself in Mario’s iconic red-and-blue duds and take to Frist Campus Center in a rolly-chair, armed with cardboard Koopa shells and banana peels. For the uninitiated, these are the trademark weapons of Mario Kart, the ever-popular Nintendo video game series.

On February 15th (evidently after embarking from an elevator full of poor unsuspecting older women), Campos and a friend rolled gleefully around Frist (with a megaphone, admittedly not part of the traditional Mario arsenal), squealing those classic squeals and blaring that classic soundtrack, lobbing peels and shells with giddy abandon. He did no less than three rounds and filled the room with (at best) smiles and (at worst) grimaces. I was there (see 1:38), I was smiling, and I bravely endured a shell to the face.

But why? Apparently all fresh new sophomore members of Terrace Club have to do some sort of “offering” to the club. I think he chose wisely.

The Curious Case of Chatroulette, I: Enter the Roulette

source: twinfactory.co.uk

source: twinfactory.co.uk

By now you’ve probably heard of Chatroulette, and if not, well, get out from under that rock and let’s have a quick talk.

Chatroulette connects you and random other users of the site through your webcams. You click play and it pairs you up, and once you see the other person, you have the option of “nexting” them to start the process again. You can wave, you can have a conversation, you can yell at the other person – the magic and virtue of the whole thing is that you can press “Next” and chances are the person is gone from your life forever.

Which means you see a lot of weird and creepy stuff on the Chatroulette.  Namely, male genitalia. Lots of them.

Once you get past the gross stuff, though, it really is an Internet phenomenon and just “feels important” for some kind of zeitgeist-y reason. Not to mention it’s amazing to watch your friends develop their Chatroulette skills, from feeling awkward about seeing random people, to chatting with them eventually, to then mustering up the courage to shout or bark at them or just generally be as goofy as possible on the thing.

And doing it from Princeton, well, adds an interesting dimension.

Continue reading…

Street Signs Not Classy Enough for Princeton Borough

from centraljersey.com

from centraljersey.com

Princeton’s biggest crisis since concrete curbs has hit our dear Nassau Street.

You know that sign in front of Zorba that lists the specials of the day–the one that always seems to include steak for breakfast? Or the really colorful blackboard-y one in front of Twist with the health benefits of yogurt written on it?

Yeah, not allowed.

Last Tuesday, the borough’s zoning officer said at the borough council meeting that these signs are a Serious Problem–and are taking advantage of an ordinance that allows signs only for special circumstances, according to the Princeton Packet.

But these signs have been around forever, you say. I’ve been here for seven semesters and I’ve always seen the psychic sign! Hell, it’s even convinced me to get my palm read a few times!

So what happened? Why now?

Continue reading…

Once a Tiger, Always a Tiger…


Party hard, Ivy Leaguers! (source: http://www.ivyplussociety.org/recent.html)

While we joke that this blessed Orange Bubble of ours is pretty darn all-consuming, especially with the vaguely incestuous dating pool that is our campus, it’s undeniable that Princeton alums are a bit…shall we say…into the whole alumni thing.  They chant, they booze it up at Reunions every year (“Yeah guys, third reunion! CHUG!”), they wear ridiculously ugly orange-and-black sport coats like they’re going out of style (oh wait: they never were in style)…

…they join Ivy League networking communities and  Ivies-Only dating clubs?

Continue reading…

JCO On Writing Well

1518129740_54e6495fd1_bWere you hosed from Joyce Carol Oates’s Creative Writing class? Yeah, me too (signed in to an art history course second round…)

I guess I’ll apply again next year. In the meantime, we can all check out the CliffsNotes version of JCO’s seminar — her seven rules for writing fiction, as published in Saturday’s Guardian.

Here’re rules 6 and 7:

– Keep in mind Oscar Wilde: “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”

– Keep a light, hopeful heart. But expect the worst.

Write away!

IN PRINT: Halftime at Princeton

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="231" caption="from paw.princeton.edu"]from paw.princeton.edu[/caption]

Not all students traveled home for intersession at the end of January: Sixteen sophomores spent time reflecting on their Princeton experience during the third annual Halftime Retreat, while about 180 students volunteered in Princeton and Trenton as part of a new community-service program.

To read more, see the Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Work It, Tiger

[caption id="attachment_4490" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Candidates walked down this runway before a long table of panelists scrutinizing their strut."]Candidates walked down this runway before a long table of panelists scrutinizing their strut.[/caption]

Earlier tonight students piled into the basement of Frist to strut their stuff in auditions for Fashion Speaks, Princeton’s annual sartorial extravaganza to benefit the charity Autism Speaks.

Clay Blackiston ’12, one of the candidates, decided to try out on a whim. “I did it for my ego,” Clay said, deadpan. “It’ll kind of suck if I don’t get it, but the risk is definitely worth the reward.”

Upon arrival, candidates dished out their measurements – for better or worse. “It was pretty awkward for girls because they had to fill out bust size,” Blackiston added. (Blackiston prides himself on the ability to identify awkward situations — see his blog, Awkwardize.com.)

Shortly after, judges measured candidates’ waists, took a mugshot, and asked the auditioners to do their best America’s Next Top Model impression on a pseudo-runway made of masking tape. (“I’m pretty sure I walked too slowly,” Clay noticed as his awkward-meter beeped. “I think I heard them mutter something about it not going fast enough.” A little awkward. A little.)

At the end, candidates walked down the runway side by side with a partner. Standard fare, but the highlight came when two burly male students arrived in pea coats and underwear. “One of them had clearly stuffed his underwear with tons of socks — it was way too big down there to be real,” Clay said. “The other guy was in some sort of thong.”

Looks like fashion speaks, sure, but I have no idea what it’s saying.

IN PRINT: Zach and Willie create a thesis on the fly

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="252" caption="from princeton.edu"]from princeton.edu[/caption]

“This is Zach –”

“— and this is Willie, and to get started, can we have a suggestion of anything, anything at all!”

So began Zach & Willie, the theater-program thesis production of Zach Zimmerman ’10. For the first half of the show, Zimmerman and Willie Myers ’11 performed a series of improvised scenes based on the suggestion of one audience member. The word offered: “toothbrush.”

In the next moment, Zimmerman and Myers were two students shaving at the sink and discussing their big dates.

“We embrace whatever we feel the scene looks like, and come up with characters,” Zimmerman said. “It’s sort of organic in that sense. You’re building a reality.”

To read more, see the Princeton Alumni Weekly.