Physical Science Blog

Education in the Age of the Internet

Will the Ivy League's pillars crumble?

August 10, 2006
How long will this bookstore stay busy? [CREDIT: ABSOLUTWADE]
How long will this bookstore stay busy? [CREDIT: ABSOLUTWADE]

As someone who took plenty of heat for choosing a Big Ten school over her father’s Ivy League alma mater, I have to admit that reading this commentary by Salon’s Andrew Leonard brought a smug smile to my face. Thanks to the internet, elite universities may no longer have the right to act so―for lack of a better word―snotty.

Indeed, it makes perfect sense. Historically, the quality of education a school provided (and the quality of research its faculty conducted) used to depend, at least partially, on the school’s physical proximity to its resources. Leonard writes:

But the Internet has enabled collaboration without physical proximity. So an up-and-coming new-growth-theory theorist at the University of Florida can coauthor a paper with a Stanford or Harvard or Chicago professor without having to move across the country. This is a great thing — the democratization of education. As the authors note, “If improvements in communication technology have made low-cost access at a distance possible for production purposes, then firms have lost a powerful instrument to regulate and control the accumulation and utilization of knowledge.”

So now that information and communication are just a few clicks away, who needs a fancy diploma and an address in Cambridge, MA to get somewhere?

Not me, my friend. Not me.


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About the Author

Melinda Wenner gave up a much higher salary, a BMW and a comfortable life in the British suburbs in order to write for Scienceline. She is willing to trade her knowledge of molecular biology (and perhaps her list of sources) for a well-poured pint of Carling. Contact her at


1 Comment

Ma says:

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that you chose the BEST university from which to obtain your undergrad degree…
Check out the US News mag’s latest articles on undergrad and grad school rankings: U of M scores very high across the board. yay!

p.s. The Ivy League only bases its smugness on history and familial “legacy” – not on current achievements. Sad, pathetic, and OLD.

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