The Tier-Ing of College, and the Damage Done
“If you want to go to a top-tier school…;” It’s a “lower-tier school, but good…” In conversations about college, you often hear rankings-focused comments.
It’s difficult to remember the time before college tiers. I never heard the term in my college deliberations in the early 1980s. We did talk about safety schools, and the Ivy League, but this terrace farming of the higher education landscape into tiers of quality played no part.
A Google nGram search for the phrase “top-tier college” reveals that it was non-existent, as in, never used, in 1982. In 1983, it first appears as a statistically miniscule glimmer. Then its usage skyrockets, all through the 1990s.
You have to hand it to U.S. News & World Report, which published its first “Best Colleges and Universities” rankings in, you guessed it, 1983.
Whether or not you agree with its methods, it singlehandedly changed the conversation about admissions. It’s almost impossible today in college-aspiring, middle-class, or affluent communities to talk about colleges without mentioning rankings which are derived, sometimes distantly, from U.S. News’ list.
Their rankings are perhaps the most influential example of a kind of manic sociological taxonomy. Victorians were obsessed with the sorting and classification of all the elements of the natural world. We apply the same zeal to lifestyle. Rankings lists abound, of the “best” places to live, vacation, get a good night’s sleep, be rich, be poor, suffer a train derailment, or go to college.
It’s not clear to me, even after years of seeing the college rankings, what constitutes a “tier.”
For its part, U.S. News uses the term “tiers” but basically includes the vast majority of schools it ranks in each sub-category as in one tier, and the lower 25% as a second (keep in mind that fine schools that don’t use the SAT fall into the purgatorial tier of the “Unranked”). Ambitious, competitive parents demand a much finer taxonomy, of course, and parse the rankings more minutely.
Shall we call the very “top tier” the top 10 schools in each major category? If we define a tier this way—and I often hear ambitious parents implicitly define it thus, in the sense that nothing less than an Ivy or an uber-elite college will satisfy parental vanity—then three colleges (Williams, Amherst, and Swarthmore) are perennially in the top tier. They’re the top three schools of 2014. On the university side, the perennial top tier include Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. What variety you see is typically just a re-shuffling of these three.
But why not expand the top tier to include—how many others? 20? 30? To many, it would seem improvident to expand your top tier much beyond 30, or it loses its tier-ness. When do we enter into the realm of the lower-tier schools that are still competitive but not the “best”? Who knows. For all the exactitude that a list promises, it spawns judgments that are imprecise but ironclad.
If I were inclined to define the top tier, I’d probably do just as well to define it by going to a sperm bank and seeing which college men produce the most coveted, expensive sperm. Or, by looking at which college’s donated eggs draw top dollar from infertile couples in the personals ads.
Or, I could define the top tier as those schools included in the pretentious “Ivy League Dating Service.”
I agree with U.S. News that college is an important decision, and an expensive one.
When I applied to college, pre U.S. News, two published sources helped me. First, the glossy packets that colleges sent to prospective students. In these brochures, it was always a bright autumn day, and everyone was smiling, lively, and appropriately diverse. These packets were obviously self-promotional, but the material was so extensive that by sheer volume alone, there were many opportunities for the curious, attuned applicant to find a “tell,” some unguarded moment in which the soul of the college revealed itself.
Maybe the tell would be what they chose to feature photographically—more sports, or more drama performances? Or, the words they chose most frequently to describe themselves. I applied to (and attended) Swarthmore for several reasons, but a substantial one was a student-authored poem in their brochure. It was quirky, intense, highly descriptive, and featured students jazzed up about papers and ideas. Although I hadn’t realized it before, that poem captured just what I was looking for in a college.
These materials created a richer forensic scene to pore over for clues as to whether this school would be a good fit.
The second resource that I dog-eared was a book produced by the Yale Daily News, a guide to colleges, as reported out from students. I loved that book. It provided basic information about the percentage of applicants accepted, and their average SAT scores, but it was mostly a book of generous, thoughtful, honest narratives about each college, and its pros and cons as reported by students themselves. It was like the college tour that you wish you could have taken—unexpurgated, but fair. The Yale Daily News felt no compunction to rank the colleges.
U.S. News’ list, in contrast, places colleges firmly in the camp of other major “consumer purchases.” It’s “one of the most important investments” in life. There’s been attention lately to how colleges have become like spas, and how students consume a college education. U.S. News’ logic, subtly, is of the same gist. “When consumers purchase are car or a computer,” they analogize, they have access to data about quality, and should have the same data for college. “From picking a school to buying a car, our rankings help make hard decisions easier.” It's basically the same process, they posit.
But what does a college more closely resemble? A car, which is inert, stable, and fully-formed, or a community, which is interactive, and transformed by your presence, like an organism? I’d say a college is more like an organism, or community. The quality and nature of the college—the “product”—changes according to the humans who constitute it. And in this sense, it can support no objective indicia to indicate best-ness, because the product in which you are “investing,” unlike a washing machine, changes from consumer to consumer and, indeed, is changed itself by the consumer formerly known as a student.
True, you can collect graduation rates and other statistics that have probative value. But don’t use these objective, factual indicia to declare the subjective status of “the best.” Just use them to create an “Index of Vital and Helpful Statistics on Colleges”—if you must...and I wish you wouldn’t.
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- "The South Atlantic Anomaly" in the Earth's magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.
- The information was gathered by the ESA's Swarm Constellation mission satellites.
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Is the Magnetic Field Reversing?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e3e0b16dac3b05dab808a4ddf04d198b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/51usJ74pPP8?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"
"The Yellow Sands", 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin; source: Wikimedia Commons<h3>Naked revolution</h3><p>Yet long before anyone knew about beach fashion, naturism was trendy. Bathing naked in the sea was going on in England as early as 1840. However, during the reign of Queen Victoria, this pleasure was outlawed. But it popped up again among the conservative Germans. In 1898, the first Naturist Club was founded in Essen and in 1900 the Wandering Birds group (<em>Wandervögel</em>) was scouring the country for uninhabited places and naked sunbathing. In the same year, Heinrich Pudor wrote <em>The C</em><em>ult of </em><em>the </em><em>Nud</em><em>e</em>, winning the hearts of contemporary supporters of naturism.</p><p>In the 1920s, on the back of this, members of the Movement for Natural Healing (<em>Naturheilbewegung</em>) organized naked sunbathing for the improvement of health. Persuaded by Pudor's theory of the healing properties of the sun and wind, which could be absorbed through the skin, they launched the naked revolution.</p><p>Pudor's book became the naturists' manifesto and soon after, not far from Hamburg, the Free Body Culture (<em>Freikörperkultur</em>, or FKK) movement was founded. This spread through other German centres and brought together thousands of people. The FKK still operates under the same name today.</p><p>The cult of the naked body even wrote itself into the ideology of fascist Germany, which advocated a pure, Aryan race. But in 1933, Hermann Göring issued an order that defined nudity as "the greatest threat to the German soul" and, with that, criminalized naturist organizations. But this wasn't the end of the movement. The naturists went underground, continuing their activities under the guise of improving physical fitness.</p><p>In 1936, the idea was even floated of having a naturist display to open the Berlin Olympic Games. It was quickly dropped. Despite this, in 1939 the naturists managed to organize their own Games in the Swiss village of Thielle.</p>
Would you ever have sex with a robot?
- In 2016, "Harmony", the world's first AI sex robot was designed by a tech firm called Realbotix.
- According to 2020 survey data, more than one in five Americans (22 percent) say they would consider having sex with a robot. This is an increase from a survey conducted in 2017.
- Robots (and robotic tech) already play a vital role in speeding up manufacturing, packaging, and processing across various industries.
From homemade dildos to Harmony, the AI sex robot<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3f7451615568e74c6a839f04329c9902"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-cN8sJz50Ng?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><em>"...amid an economic crisis, with restaurants and retailers closing their doors and larger companies laying off and furloughing employees, the sex tech industry is booming."</em><br></p><p>A Bustle <a href="https://www.bustle.com/wellness/the-sex-tech-industry-is-booming-amid-economic-crisis-22819801" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">article</a> published in April 2020, weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, explored the drastic boost in the sex tech industry. According to the research, <a href="https://www.dameproducts.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dame Products</a> (a popular sex toy retailer) experienced a 30 percent increase in sales between the months of February to April, and popular sexual wellness brand <a href="https://unboundbabes.com/?utm_source=%7Bsource%7D&utm_medium=%7Bmedium%7D&utm_keyword=unbound%20babes&utm_matchtype=e&device=c&utm_campaign=%7Bcampaign%7D&utm_adgroup=%7Badgroup%7D&gclid=CjwKCAjw1v_0BRAkEiwALFkj5qYbdEwANUjCdRkCeVZ2HZzHjcGmpYbsOXYcMcNneLc2nySvrbaalBoChEsQAvD_BwE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Unbound</a> reported selling twice as many toys as normal in this period.</p><p>While the new coronavirus was crashing the economy in other ways, the sex tech industry was one of the few that actually saw improvements, likely due to people all over the world being advised, encouraged, and in some instances forced to stay at home.</p><p>Something similar happened in 2008, <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2010/08/23/the-great-recession-is-a-turn-on-for-the-sex-toy-industry/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during the recession</a>: the sex toy industry was one of the only industries at the time that didn't gravely suffer. </p><p><strong>The evolution of sex tech from stone dildos to artificial intelligence.</strong></p><p><a href="https://sofiagray.com/what-is-the-history-of-sex-toys-from-stone-to-silicone-and-beyond/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The history of sex toys</a> is quite interesting. A 28,000-year-old siltstone dildo was uncovered in Germany in 2005. Luxury bronze dildos have also been found in China that are at least 2,000 years old.</p><p>Aside from various materials being shaped into dildos, there has always been an interest in how to advance sex technology, even before it involved actual technology at all.</p><ul><li>The 1700s: Steam-powered vibrators (such as the Manipulator).</li><li>The 1800s—1900s: The invention of the first electric vibrator (the Pulsoson) and "beauty tools" being used for sexual satisfaction (such as the Polar Cub massager)</li><li>The 1920s—1940s: The introduction of hand-held massagers (the Andis Vibrator) and compact devices (such as the Oster Stim-U-Lax)</li><li>The 1940s—1960s: Japan introduced the "Cadillac of Vibrators" (The Hitachi Magic Wand), which eventually made it's way to America.</li><li>1965: The invention of silicone, which most modern sex toys are made of.</li><li>The 1980s—1990s: The invention of the rabbit-style vibrator, made more popular with one of the first showings of a sex toy on television ("Sex and the City"). </li><li>The 2000s: Visual porn website Pornhub launched and sex toys became increasingly popular. Erotic literature also became more common and popular, with "50 Shades of Grey" and others like it. </li><li>The 2010s and beyond: Sex toys and technology start to blend, and the world's first internet-controlled sex toy was launched in 2010 by Lovense.</li></ul><p>In 2016, "Harmony", <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cN8sJz50Ng" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the world's first AI sex robot</a> was designed by a tech firm called Realbotix. </p>
From television shows to real-life applications, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more and more popular in all areas of human life.
Credit: Willyam Bradberry on Shutterstock<p>In 2020, more than one in five Americans (22 percent) say they would consider having sex with a robot. <a href="https://today.yougov.com/topics/science/articles-reports/2020/03/19/2020-both-men-and-women-are-more-likely-consider-h" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">YouGov conducted a study</a> in February 2020 that compared results from a similar study from 2017.<br></p><p>According to the results, 6 percent more people in 2020 are comfortable with the idea of having sex with a robot than in 2017.</p><p>YouGov points out that the increase in consideration is particularly significant among American adults between the ages of 18-34 years old. Additionally, how people feel about having sex with a robot has also changed. In 2020, 27 percent of Americans said they would consider it cheating if they had a partner who had sex with a robot during the relationship, compared to the 32 percent reported in 2017.</p><p><strong>"If you had a partner who had sex with a robot, would you consider it cheating?"</strong></p><p>The results from this interesting study also reveal that many people (42 percent) believe having sex with a robot is safer than having sex with a human stranger.</p><p>Robots (and robotic tech) already play a vital role in speeding up manufacturing, packaging, and processing across various industries. From television shows to real-life applications, artificial intelligence is becoming more and more popular in all areas of human life.</p><p>According to YouGov, "a <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-12/amazon-plans-high-end-echo-ramps-up-work-on-alexa-home-robot" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a> report outlining Amazon's plans for an Alexa-powered robot that follows and helps you around the home may redefine how these machines service humans in the near future." </p>