Who Says Facebook Killed Smart Public Discourse?

Me. Yeah, I said it. Facebook killed intelligent conversation. Occasionally though, intelligent people, like my friend and UNAI co-conspirator Patrick Ip, post a quote from another (ostensibly) intelligent person on their Facebook feeds (né “walls”), and somehow, without rhyme or reason, a torrent of responses issues forth.

Me. Yeah, I said it. Facebook killed intelligent conversation. Occasionally though, intelligent people, like my friend and UNAI co-conspirator Patrick Ip, post a quote from another (ostensibly) intelligent person on their Facebook feeds (né “walls”), and somehow, without rhyme or reason, a torrent of responses issues forth.

I believe this is one of those conversations that people can have only in college… specifically, as undergraduates. It must have been the mounting pressure of final exams, because within a three-hour time frame, just over five-pages of single-spaced text was produced.

A big thank you goes out to Ted Gonder for providing a voice of reason over the discussion.

Names have been obfuscated to protect the innocent and/or quixotic.

– – – – – – – – – – – –


Patrick Ip ‎posted

“Never, ever, for the rest of your careers, hire someone who had a GPA of 4.0. Ever. Because the definition of a 4.0 is that this person buys the act; they don’t screw around. Tommy Jefferson, Al Hamilton, and Georgie Washington, they were screwing around. This was a dinky doo-dippy country and they said, let’s go after that George dude. Now that was not smart. If they had 4.0 grade point averages, they would not have started this revolution.” -Tom Peters

– – –

Jason C.

i had a sub-3.0 high school gpa when i got into uchicago, and i have a sub-3.0 gpa at u of c. hire me!

– – –

Jason D. Rowley

I had a sub-3 high school gpa as well. I now do less than 5% of the assigned reading and otherwise put 4 hours a week into my studies outside of class. It seems that grades are inversely correlated to intellectual curiosity. I have my own theories about this, but would like to hear other people’s thoughts on the matter.

– – –

Kristi A.

“Never, ever, for the rest of your careers, hire someone who had a GPA of 3.0. Ever. Because the definition of a 3.0 is that this person buys the act, and fails miserably. (The following sentences have been removed because they make no sense, and because no one should ever, ever refer to Alexander Hamilton as “Al.” Also because I refuse to type that strange phrase referring to America in its formative years). If they had 3.0 grade point averages, they would have started this revolution–and also failed miserably. 4.0 students can at least figure out how to beat the system; 2.0 students aren’t going to get hired anyway.” -Edited because the original is absurd. You’re welcome!

– – –

Jason C.

my thinking is that it’s not the best idea to 100% blow off school, mostly because it’s expensive. but a good 97% of coursework–and 80% of classes in their entirety, i’m prepared to argue–are a waste of time for those are most interested in learning.

get good enough grades/do enough scholarship stuff to get your education financed. beyond that, classes are largely an exercise in organizational skills (good) and systematized thinking (bad), so fuck em. great minds do not just their best work, but their only work outside of the limitations of academia.

– – –

Ted G.

this conversation is complete bullshit.

– – –

Jason C.

@kristi–4.0 students aren’t the ones who beat the system, they’re the ones who legitimize it and go on to endorse it. the 2.0 students are, by and large, its victims. somewhere between is where most people who are doing any good fall. paradoxically, these folks have difficulty finding jobs: the 4.0 students are either spending 12 years in graduate school or snapping up the meaningless, high-paying corporate gigs; the 2.0 students are lazy as shit and living off of their parents; the dropouts and uneducated are living off of shitty pay in blue-collar lines of work. where does that leave the intellectually amibitions? what paths are open to aspiring innovators after graduation?

A: none. they make their own, or else are proven failures as innovators.

– – –

Kristi A.

First of all: Have no fear; I wasn’t actually contending that 3.0’s are worthless, where 4.0’s should be deified. I was satirizing the quote to show its inherent ridiculousness. No offense meant, 3.0 students, for I am often in that range myself.

Second: I’m afraid I’m not comfortable with the contention that 4.0 students are universally the cogs of a system that oppresses those truly ambitious among us. While I’d be the first to argue that the system needs some serious revamping, I would also say, easily, that this mystical 3.0-land, home of those who love to learn but are–what, too busy pursuing their ambitions?–otherwise occupied and thus cannot fulfill a perfect GPA is imaginary. Sure, there are 4.0’s who happen to be very good at memorization, and so the system benefits them automatically, but there are also a large number of 4.0 students who genuinely want to excel, and to understand all of the subject matter given in order to further their intellectual ambitions and life goals. Likewise, 3.0 students are not a homogeneous group of do-gooders who, try as they might, can’t beat the oppressive system that keeps them from attaining academic recognition and, then, from getting the better jobs offered to those who just happened to excel.

– – –

Jason C.

all generalizations are false, including this one –mark twain

i wasn’t targeting that post at you (i left the @kristi in by mistake after i’d changed the course of the post actually, my bad), sorry about that. i was sketching a symbolic overview of the plight of 3.0-landers (as you aptly described em). it is tough, though–classwork tends to be, from my experience, well-intentioned but restrictive. in a classroom with 25-30 or so students, how on earth does one design a “curriculum” that suits all their needs reasonably well? it’s exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, and i don’t get why schools approach the issue of education from a perspective that mandates that a large group of students be lumped together and ask to do largely the same things. high school all but actively pushes students to be proficient but mediocre in all traditional academic disciplines. something’s gotta change.

– – –

Jason C.

point being, about 80% of my classes (probably more) feel unreasonable in the requests they make of me. i thus have to choose between changing my mindset, changing the system, sucking it up and doing work i resent, and getting Cs and Bs across the board. i’ve settled on a combination of the four, but i’m not happy about it. i’ll let y’all know how it goes

– – –

Jason D. Rowley

lol. Ambitions. That energy might be best channeled into something other than a 4.0, or shooting for one.

– – –

Jason C.

yeah i’m kind of past the point where i need my teachers to tell me i’m smart (via the vaunted “A”) to feel good about myself

also, @kristi, mistaking “satire” with “parody” is a grave offense. the same one those Twitterature bastards perpetuated.

– – –

Jason D. Rowley

The problem with GPA, just like standardized test scores is this: a very high score/GPA tells people a lot about the recipient of the high score. Conversely, a low score/GPA indicates very little about the recipient. Unfortunately, the majority of the population is attached to the certainty associated the high score/GPA and, thus, mistakenly transposes this certainty onto the low-scoring population. This might lead one to believe that “the system” should look more closely at the low-scoters among us, focus less on superficial, biased metrics and more on achievements. In a few years, I’m not going to be paid to do standardized tests all day, nor will I analyze superficial shit through simple thematic concordance (ahem, CIV), I will be working. Hire based on quality of work, not “performance”.

– – –

Jason C.

down with incentive-based “learning!”

– – –

Kristi Avila

Of course you should focus less on superficial things like test scores. And I don’t think anyone in his right mind would dispute that a savvy boss would hire based on quality of work over displayed academic GPA. My contention with that bizarre Tom Peters quote (seriously, Georgie? what?) is that it systematically categorizes an entire group of people, many of whom, I would argue, would perform at the level of or exceed many of their 3.0 counterparts, and rejects them based on a totally artificial framework. For me, it reads less like a manifesto for those who were intelligent but underperformed due to the manner of the education system and more like a justification for less-than-perfect grades.

– – –

Jason D. Rowley

@Jason,

Re: your comment about the twitterature guys. Who’s to say that they weren’t just channeling sophomoric college comp lit brats? Perhaps it’s meta-commentary on misperceptions of parody vis-a-vis satire? I smell a bullshit-heavy (i.e. honors receiving) BA thesis in the works.

But I digress.

– – –

Jason C.

‎@Jason–lol, agreed on damn near all accounts. but i know the dudes, and they’re not exactly that deep. BUT WHAT IF THEY ARE? and don’t let it on? virtuoso ironists. like soulja boy, in a way. that’s my BA thesis. AND HERE WE GO.

– – –

Jason D. Rowley

@ Kristi: Although I too found Mr. Peters’s language a bit precious, I disagree fundamentally with your assertion that, as you claimed, “it systematically categorizes an entire group of people, many of whom, I would argue, would perform at the level of or exceed many of their 3.0 counterparts, and rejects them based on a totally artificial framework.” It’s that last bit. The “framework” you claim to be “totally artificial” is very much real. Peters dismisses the 4.0s as subpar precisely because they play within the rules. If, by your assertion, they are indeed intelligent, it might behoove them to develop an educational paradigm that, um, actually educates. This reïnvention is predicated on a rejection of the current system, drastic action 4.0s are too spineless to take. On balance, the noetic output of those choosing to work hard outside the current system (and thus suffer the stigma of a middling GPA) more than compensates for the 2.0s that spend their time masturbating, or whatever.

Please, forgive me for being presumptuous. I didn’t let you define what you mean by “an artificial framework”. I invite you to do so, and/or respond to the long, discordant paragraph above.

– – –

Jason D. Rowley

And by “work hard outside the current [educational] system”, I meant “spend their time perusing, developing their intellectual talents/goals”.

– – –

Jason D. Rowley ‎

@Jason: by Kristi’s logic, David Foster Wallace must have been somewhat desultory for totally failing to meet the traditional standards of sentence, paragraph, and narrative structure.

@Kristi: Yeah, that, or he invented his own style. There’s a reason they give MacArthurs to rule-breakers. See also: that’s why they’re colloquially referred to as “genius grants” and not valedictorian grants. Never the twain shall meet.

– – –

Jason C.

i can’t hate on all people with 4.0s. when i started actually turning my homework in midway through high school, i realized that just about any high schooler who turns in all his stuff should be ashamed if he doesn’t get a 4-point. at that point, academic success and genuine learning are in no way mutually exclusive. plus, who can blame 4.0 laureates for wanting to keep the framework that helped them succeed in place.

and, getting a 4.0 is a good jumpstart to future financial success, and though my priorities lie elsewhere it’s hard to find fault with someone for aspiring to have enough money to live comfortably. especially those who come from the lower socioeconomic strata. but i digress.

i agree on this count–the original quote patrick posted was inadequate, albeit pithy. it lays down the groundwork for a much-needed assault on our persistent glorification of “good grades,” but doesn’t develop the relevant criticisms meaningfully. i hope myself, and my compatriot in name mr. rowley, have taken some steps toward doing so above.

exhibit X) a critique of the university system: college costs a lot of money. too much money. it’s absurd to ask someone interested in intellectual stimulation to fork over $50,000 a year to hone his faculties via osmosis. college thus has to be seen as an investment due to its prohibitive costs. the only cocksure way to improve earnings potential over one’s time at a university is to build a resume; the most integral part of one’s resume in most contexts is the GPA; thus one interested in intellectual growth and development (and seeking a rational optimization of the use of his 19th through 22nd years) is forced to either forgo the university system, attend college and sacrifice personal goals to focus on attaining a 4.0, go to college with the intent of blowing off classes (which is irrational due to financial constraints outlined above), or give up intellectual inquiry altogether. these are the ONLY rational AND optimal options available. which sounds best? none sound appealing as i see it.

see where i’m going with this?

– – –

Jason D. Rowley

Fellow conomial and others, what, in your opinion, might be a better system? By this I mean that we can all acknowledge the broken nature of the higher-ed system, the question is how to fix it. I’ve decided that a pass-fail system of grading (at least for undergrads) might work, whereby graduates’ aptitude for a given job is determined not by grades but by extra-curricular involvement, leadership, and achievement. After one’s first or second job, few employers ask for transcripts; their hiring decision is made based on qualifications such as workplace leadership and achievement. Why not base that first hiring decision off of what future hiring decisions are based on?

This would also allow for more “risk-taking” w/r/t intellectual development WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE CURRICULUM (i.e. incentivizing the intellectual exploration so celebrated in undergraduate admissions literature). The reason why I hate on 4.0s is because they aren’t taking risks that might otherwise be rewarding. I’m sure many physics majors would like to take a good history or comp-lit course, but they don’t out of fear of failure/damaging an otherwise sterling GPA.

– – –

Nancy N.

To beat a system, one has to understand it first. Do all 4.0 students seek good grades, or do we seek a full understanding of the subject at hand — in or out of an educational system?

I wish our “system” would encourage self-motivation and curiosity.

– – –

Ted G.

how is this still happening? and someone needs to get rid of “like” on comments…such an impulsive people-pleasing tool. talk about needing validation..

Author: Jason D. Rowley

As I mentioned elsewhere, I wear a lot of hats. Currently, I'm interested in VC data, early stage startups, and journalism. Previously I've been a blogger, designer, researcher, startup founder, (temporary) college dropout, connector, occasional branding designer and amateur chef.

3 thoughts on “Who Says Facebook Killed Smart Public Discourse?”

  1. “virtuoso ironists. like soulja boy, in a way.”

    Who is this man? you’ll have to invite him for dinner, perhaps to the Napkin Club?

    (No way in hell I was using the French. No offense, morgan.)

  2. Incidentally, I agree with The Other Jason that:

    the only cocksure way to improve earnings potential over one’s time at a university is to build a resume;

    while I passionately disagree, but am decidedly unqualified to do so [since I certainly fall on the other side of the “most”], that:

    the most integral part of one’s resume in most contexts is the GPA.

    One’s time at a University is of course best spent cultivating a resumé for maximum pure utility of one’s $200K. Being a student opens doors unlike any other state of being does, as you frequently point out, Rowley, but perhaps this ‘resumé building’ reaches its max efficiency when one’s in school because people know how damn much you’re paying for the privilege?

    I doubt that people are that self-aware, and it’s likely more due to the recency and associative heuristics that bubble up in the Hiring Manager’s mind like “well, I interned at Bear Stearns while in College” and “yeah – that’s what you do then”.

    But a 4.0 being important? Who cares? Seriously, do people care? I would have no way of knowing, for I am in an entirely merit-based profession. We coders have debates about whether or not you even need a college degree let alone a 4 dot oh. Trust me, I didn’t have any idea I’d have a total, career-embedded filter for crap like “we won’t hire anyone non-Ivy and non-4.0” when I signed up to code all day. But I’m glad I did.

Leave a Reply