The ego of the average Cornell student rivals that of Robert Mugabe or Napoleon. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Whether it is the obnoxious cell phone conversations on the Arts Quad, the half-sarcastic comments in a North Campus dining hall or just the sheer number of Cornell logos that can be seen on students on any given day, it is clear that the average Cornellian thinks that he is all that and a bag of chips.
Sure, you may have gotten a 2,100 on your SATs or studied your way to the valedictorian sash at your suburban New Jersey high school. Want a cookie?
The thing is, Toto, you’re not in high school any more. Which means that, standardized tests aside, you should probably start deflating that ego. Because frankly, just because you go to Cornell, doesn’t make you special — or even smart.
Take the freshman in a government section of mine last year. On the first day of section, he promptly announced that he would be the first Jewish president of the United States. He then proceeded to discuss his preparations for his role as president, and handed out fliers for an Israeli support group he had started at Cornell. Only it was spelled “Isrealy.”
See what I mean, folks? And this is not an isolated example.
In a finance class I had the pleasure of taking, one student constantly discussed how many interviews he had with investment banks, including Citi. During a particular class when we were discussing the bailout, he poignantly asked, “Who is Vikram Pandit?”
Now, you might not know the answer to that question. But if you don’t, I’d bet you didn’t interview with Citi, given that Pandit is their CEO.
In a history class about World War II, when asked for the Allied Powers, one guy volunteered Argentina as an answer. On the Ag Quad, I once overheard a girl explaining very seriously to her friend that French is the most widely spoken language in the world. A good friend of mine wrote an entire 10-page paper on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew — only in her version, every time she wrote it, it was The Taming of the Screw.
I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
You’ve all heard dumb comments, often from drunk girls in the 1:00 a.m. meat market, or from the token jocks in your class (sorry to type cast — but I’ve met my fair share of athletes who were hit a few too many times in the head). But, being the egomaniacs that we are, everyone individually assumes that they are the exception to the rule, that they are intellectually superior to these “rare” Cornell dummies. I’m sure you’re reading this now and thinking, “No way. I’m way smarter than that. I’m an astrophysics major, for goodness’ sake! I interned at NASA!”
Sorry, bud, but in case you hadn’t gleaned this from what I’ve written so far, you’re probably a lot dumber than you think you are. Or at least than you act like you think you are (that’s the ego).
Sure, you may be able to reprogram my MacBook in the same amount of time it takes me to tie my shoes, or design an office building worthy of a Pritzker Prize in the same amount of time it takes me to bake a cupcake. But if you’re clueless beyond these skills or your academic studies, what’s the point?
Having a developed but specific skill set doesn’t make you smart — or special. It just makes you more likely to think that you are smart and special, when in fact, you’re probably not.
I’m not sure what it is that makes Cornell kids so damn dumb at times, though. Maybe we spend so much time checking out Lady Gaga’s most recent costume change that we don’t pay attention to current events. Maybe all the PBR has fried our brain cells. Or maybe, after that original Cornell acceptance letter arrived in our mailbox, we decided that that was it, we were smart enough, at least beyond the classrooms we entered at Cornell.
This, I think, is the problem. Because of our attendance at a rather prestigious University, we assume that we are smarter-than-thou (by “thou,” I mean I.C. kids and all the kids from your home town that attend non-Ivy institutions). This may be bursting a bubble, but that simply isn’t true. Sure, if you go to Cornell, your chances of being an all-around idiot are low. But it doesn’t mean you get to turn your brain off for the four years you spend here, and that you can stop trying to show or improve your general intelligence.
Over my past three (almost three and a half) years at Cornell, I have encountered all too many Cornell students who think they are the bee’s knees, God’s gift to academia, the smartest of the smartypantses. Inevitably, they are not.
Those with the biggest egos are often those with the smallest brains. So, my friends, I suggest you keep this in mind. And try to keep the cocky comments to a minimum, lest your friend point out that ridiculously dumb comment you made last week.
Leigha Kemmett is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at email@example.com. Starboard Tact appears alternate Thursdays this semester.