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.