Academic Inertia
July 10, 2012, 04:18 AM
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With all the predictions buzzing about how higher education will be radically remade by the Internet Real Soon Now, please allow me to tell a little story.

In 1975, I visited Stanford`s campus. At that point in history, the hierarchy of prestige in American higher education went:

1. Harvard

2. Yale

3. Uncertain, but probably either Princeton, Stanford, MIT, or Cal Tech.

My impression of Stanford 37 years ago was highly favorable: Why would anybody go anywhere else if he could get in here? The climate, the campus, and the career opportunities in the surrounding Silicon Valley ...

In the 3/8ths of a century since then, Stanford has triumphed in just about every conceivable way, as Silicon Valley has grown vastly.

And yet, it`s by no means certain that Stanford has managed to move up at all in the prestige rankings, weighted down by its Mark of Cain: having only been founded in the 19th Century, not the 17th or 18th Century. That`s how much stasis there is in this industry.