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The New Yorker finds Stanford in a (Silicon) valley of deep shadow

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

imageKen Auletta begins an essay about Stanford in The New Yorker this way: “Stanford University is so startlingly paradisial, so fragrant and sunny, it’s as if you could eat from the trees and live happily forever.” And so you know where he’s headed. Specifically, it’s to question whether all that splendor so close to Silicon Valley and the mindset it engenders is maybe too much of a good thing. An excerpt:
But Stanford’s entrepreneurial culture has also turned it into a place where many faculty and students have a gold-rush mentality and where the distinction between faculty and student may blur as, together, they seek both invention and fortune. Corporate and government funding may warp research priorities. A quarter of all undergraduates and more than fifty per cent of graduate students are engineering majors. At Harvard, the figures are four and ten per cent; at Yale, they’re five and eight per cent. Some ask whether Stanford has struck the right balance between commerce and learning, between the acquisition of skills to make it and intellectual discovery for its own sake.

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