Quality Education

“She’s a high school senior, college-bound. She told me that she’s applied to over ten schools, but Johns Hopkins is her first choice. It sounds like if she doesn’t get in there, she’ll be devastated.”

My Physician Assistant student stood before me in my office, presenting the results of her evaluation of the patient she had just seen. We had discussed this adolescent’s history of bulimia before she stepped in to examine the girl.

“She seems to be a Type A—very driven to succeed. I can’t believe that she’s so obsessed with getting into Hopkins.”

“Many times bulimia and anorexia are associated with young, bright, overachievers—particularly females,” I said.

I thought of this brief discussion when I read the article about Loren Pope, the 96-year-old maverick who spent the second half of his life as an independent college counselor advocating for the small liberal arts college as the place to get a quality education. “I’ve got egalitarian instincts, and that’s why I’m opposed to the elite schools’ status and prestige,” Mr. Pope said in yesterday’s New York Times (February 28, 2007).

Pope is skeptical about parents and students who seek admission to brand-name colleges. “I think all they are thinking about is status,” he said. “A good school is an extended family. The learning is collaborative, not competitive. It’s a community of learning, and values are central — that’s important.”

Pope has written several books advocating for a select group of small liberal arts colleges. One book, Colleges That Change Lives, (Penguin Books, 1996), sits on my office bookshelf. It had been several years since I leafed through its pages.

I opened it up and browsed the Table of Contents, pleased to find that Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, had made Mr. Pope’s cut.

Juniata was where I began my undergraduate education 35 years ago. I still make an annual pilgrimage to the campus every spring.

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