Bostonian, I'm pretty sure that he meant it tongue-in-cheek, given the tenor of the rest of the piece. I mean, you have an excellent point, there, but I think that the author agrees with you. smile

I can definitely see both sides of the Elite-vs.-Egalitarian education argument, Bostonian (and Old Dad)-- because I know that those experiences also happen at public state universities, including small ones with enthusiastic faculty. Not everyone teaching at a public Uni does no research-- not even at primarily undergrad institutions! It's just that you stay out of the shipping lanes, as it were-- you occupy little niches that are out-of-the-way and likely to stay that way.

I also know that lackluster courses taught by adjuncts or barely-English-speaking TA's can happen at any institution.

The details matter there. I would not be happy sending my DD into any class where the majority of the teaching was being shouldered by a TA corps or by adjuncts. But I'm also aware that a good TA can be better than a disgruntled, dried up old jerk who is teaching only because the department is FORCING him/her to do so, and taking it out on any student with the temerity to show up at office hours.

Many physics majors taught themselves by working individually on problem sets and then discussing them with other classmates, rather than going to professors' office hours. I think this is a reasonable approach.

That's the ONLY learning approach that I've seen work for most students in STEM, speaking plainly-- so what I look at when I look at quality of programming isn't to be found on paper. I look for posted solutions, or at least notes about them on faculty offices, I look for clusters of students with textbooks and laptops open, CHATTER about what they are working on, and spaces that invite such groups to "hang" near faculty offices and lab spaces. I look at what's hanging on the walls-- is it graduate posters and publications by faculty? Or is it internship opportunities, undergraduate research posters, funny cartoons, lists of helpful links, etc.?

That's my insider tip for parents-- when you go to look at colleges, look for that. Don't listen to the marketing spiel. Believe what you see and hear for yourself.

Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.