|By amd on Tuesday, December 25, 2001 - 07:01 pm: Edit|
What can anyone tell me about this college?
It appears to be a great books type college with a total of only 100 undergraduate students. In the % of Ph.D students, it ranks third, behind Caltech and harvey Mudd. Would you send your kid to this college?
|By Nancy Z on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 08:26 pm: Edit|
I graduated from Shimer.It is a very unusual school for very unusual students. There are no organized clubs or activities. Did I send my kid to Shimer? No. Would I send my kid to Shimer? No.
|By Dadster on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 09:03 pm: Edit|
What kind of kids SHOULD go there, Nancy? Any?
|By Dave Berry on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 12:47 pm: Edit|
Here's an excerpt from the Shimer site virtual tour:
"Shimer has always been a small college. With a renewed interest in liberal arts nationally, its student body has risen since its smallest population of 40 students when it moved from Mt. Carroll to the Waukegan campus. Currently the student body numbers between 110 and 140 students."
Nancy Z: How many were in your graduating class?
|By Nancy Z on Thursday, March 21, 2002 - 09:20 pm: Edit|
I am remembering around 28 students in my graduating class. There was an incredibly high drop out/transfer rate. Mt Carroll was very isolated - the town's population was about 1200. When I attended in the 60's it was still recovering from a Saturday Evening Post article called the "Shimer College -Marijuana Mecca of the Midwest".
Most of the students were very bright,creative, articulate, somewhat lazy, independent and not especially social.
The very best thing about Shimer is I learned how to think and for that I am grateful.
My son who is a college freshman is a NCAA recruited athlete in a very well respected D3 school.He is an excellent student who is active in Greek life and plays two sports. Clearly he and Shimer would not be a match.
|By Dadster on Friday, March 22, 2002 - 05:16 pm: Edit|
I guess you'd have to have the right personality fit for a place like Shimer. The isolated environment with a very limited student population has to be rough for anyone expecting a social life. I guess if you make good friends early (or if you are completely antisocial), it works out. If you don't seem to bond with your classmates, though, there's not much of a backup pool to draw on.
|By Roger (Roger) on Friday, March 22, 2002 - 05:25 pm: Edit|
How does the school stay afloat with that kind of enrollment? They must have profs of exceptional versatility...
|By Nancy Z on Saturday, March 23, 2002 - 12:58 pm: Edit|
When I attended 24 - five hour classes were needed for graduation. Eighteen of the 24 classes were identical for all students.There was an extremely limited choice on the other six classes. The following classes were mandatory: 4 semesters of humanities , 4 semesters of natural science, 4 semesters of social science , 2 semesters of foreign language, 2 semesters of western civ, 1 of math, 1 of music and art. There were mandatory comprehensives in Analysis, Rhetoric, Logic, Natural Science, Social Science, Humanities, and Western Civ ( written in the foreign language of your choice ). Professors with exceptional versatility were not necessary with mandatory classes and limited electives.
|By PJ Killian on Wednesday, June 05, 2002 - 02:24 am: Edit|
I was a couple of months too late to be a part of this conversation, but I'm including this for the benefit of anyone else that comes along:
I've attended Shimer for three years now, and I'm glad I did. Other people (heck, most people) are liable to hate it.
The education is a cut above that which most colleges offer: it is a "Great Books" curriculum based on primary sources, i.e. reading Plato, not reading about Plato. All classes are capped at 12 students, and instructors are ready and willing to provide individual help not possible at larger schools. There are no TAs and there is no pressure to publish; instructors come here to teach, not research. The school has a virtual open-admissions policy,partly because we need students, partly because admissions is pretty self-selecting, and partly because the school caters to students who have not succeeded in conventional educational environments. (The school requires a high-school transcript and recommends sending SAT/ACT scores, but a well-written essay and a good interview will overcome deficencies in either or both.) Students have a high degree of power over even the most fundamental policies due to the school's policy of self-governance. Shimer is also inexpensive compared to other, similar schools (e.g. St. John's, Antioch, Marlboro), and the FA department is extremely helpful.
There are a few snags, of course.
The campus is visually unimpressive, to say the least. The dorms are very old buildings with old-building problems. There is little in the way of organized campus activities, apart from theater and chess. There's not much of a meal plan--breakfasts and lunches 4 days a week is the long and short of it. (Dorm rooms are equipped with kitchens and refigerators, however.) There are no frats or sororities, no athletic teams, no formals, little in the way of what is generally understood to be the college experience. The electives (though high-quality) are very limited in number. The library and computer facilities are limited. And Waukegan is hardly a garden spot; it's not a terrible town, but it's fairly down-at-the-heels. (On the bright side, however, Chicago is a short train ride away.) And finally, you'll have to spend the rest of your life explaining a college that 95% of the country has never heard of.
I would recommend Shimer to intelligent people who love to read (no kidding--200 pages in a night is not an incredibly unusual workload), who have struggled in (or are just bored by) conventional academic environments, and who are looking for a rigorous education in the history of Western thought and the liberal arts and sciences.
People looking for a vibrant social scene, frat parties, pre-professional education of any kind, or hallowed halls of ivy are barking up the wrong tree.
|By Lucidity on Wednesday, June 05, 2002 - 02:20 pm: Edit|
>>college with a total of only 100 undergraduate students. In the % of Ph.D students, it ranks third, behind Caltech and harvey Mudd. Would you send your kid to this college?
The extremely small sampling has to be taken into account for the school's high ranking which, in all fairness, skews it. Maybe it should be 3rd with an asterisk. ;=)
Of course, that same small size has other obvious academic advantages.
|By PJ Killian (Pjk) on Sunday, June 09, 2002 - 11:12 am: Edit|
>>The extremely small sampling has to be taken into account for the school's high ranking which, in all fairness, skews it. Maybe it should be 3rd with an asterisk. ;=) <<
It seems to me that if it's not useful to compare Shimer (enrollment ~100) with Harvey Mudd (enrollment ~800), it's even less useful to compare a school like Harvey Mudd with, say, the University of Texas (enrollment ~50,000). What's the point of percentages if you don't use them to compare across different sample sizes?
In my opinion, Shimer's highly ranked in this category for three main reasons: a) because the work done there (especially the independent-study work and senior thesis done at the upper grade levels) is a very close analogue to the work done in grad school, b) because Shimer's high drop-out rate and (generally) tough grading tend to weed out less motivated students and c) because the curriculum is so focused on "pure" liberal arts, and so averse to any kind of practical job training, that the school attracts a disproportionate number of students interested in education for education's sake--a group predisposed to grad school, anyway.
|By Circumspect on Sunday, June 09, 2002 - 12:56 pm: Edit|
Ordinarily, percentages are the standard means of comparison unless, as here, the sampling is so small as to muddle, not clarify, the issue. This does not necessarily disqualify those factors you think contribute to the high ratio, although I think that there are other schools with those traits that cannot claim anywhere near Shimer's percentage.
Nancy: how did Shimer teach you how to think? (Whatever it is, they should bottle and sell it!)
|By Lucidity on Sunday, June 09, 2002 - 01:56 pm: Edit|
On using percentages to compare different sample sizes - I think it's a matter of threshhold. Some minimum standard (number) must be met to permit a viable statistic. Some homeschooling moms might claim astronomical success rates but too few kids make for an unfair and invalid comparison.
|By PJ Killian (Pjk) on Tuesday, June 11, 2002 - 03:07 am: Edit|
>>On using percentages to compare different sample sizes - I think it's a matter of threshhold. Some minimum standard (number) must be met to permit a viable statistic.<<
I don't know enough about the methodology behind the statistic to make a definitive judgement here. Given that graduating classes you can count on two hands are not unusual at Shimer, if they're merely tracking the % of grad students from any one individual class and comparing that with other schools is going to produce distortions--e.g., noting that 2 of the 8 members of the class of '91 went on to study for a PhD, and concluding that therefore Shimer always sends 25% of their students to PhD programs is obviously silly, and such a statistic would well be worthy of an asterisk.
On the other hand, the question of when the threshold you speak of has been exceeded is a very real one here--if the study was conducted over, say, ten years, and Shimer was consistently sending a quarter (or whatever arbitrary high percentage) of their students to PhD programs, would the study then be valid? If that's not sufficient, what number of years is necessary before a high percentage of future PhD students stops being an anomaly and starts being a property of the school, bearing in mind that the sample size of Shimer is always going to be far smaller than nearly any other school over a given time period? (I'm not trying to be argumentative here, although it may read that way. To my way of thinking, this question is an interesting and non-trivial one.)
My point is simply this: Shimer produces a high percentage of PhDs because _that's the school's focus_. Harvey Mudd and Caltech no doubt produce a higher percentage of engineering PhDs than the University of Illinois, but that's not, in and of itself, a reason for an aspiring engineer to choose those schools over the U of I. But the high percentage of quality engineers produced by HMC or Caltech is an quality of the education you get at these schools.
Likewise with Shimer, assuming the figures quoted at the start of the thread aren't a statistical anomaly--a high percentage of PhD students among our graduates doesn't necessarily make us a better school than others with "worse" statistics, but it is a testament to the strength of the education you get at a school that virtually no one would include in a off-the-cuff list of the nation's best schools.
|By Lucidity on Tuesday, June 11, 2002 - 07:51 am: Edit|
I am not presenting myself as an expert in statistics or methodology either, it just seems common sensical to demand some quorom before invoking percetages when a school is so small as to be beneath the radar. It reminds of when David Letterman or someone was interviewing a girl who comprised the entire graduating class of her school. She was kidded about being class valedictorian. Technically, she probably was but would that be a meaningful designation? I don't think so. (She probably won all the superlatives, too. ;+) )
I don't take your point about what it would take to validate the % as argumentative at all, it's a fair question. Again, as a non-pro, I don't know but imagine methodology has a formula that addresses this. I do think that a comparison over several years would improve the liklihood that the % has some validity.
|By Alicia on Wednesday, November 06, 2002 - 04:28 pm: Edit|
I am considering transferring as a junior to Shimer next fall. From the interent, I have not been successful in determining the different major options at Shimer. If someone with this knowledge would tell me what my choices are, I'd appreciate it. Also, is there a pool on campus? I am a swimmer and I don't need to be on a team, but somewhere to workout is essential for me.
|By Pjk (Pjk) on Saturday, November 30, 2002 - 02:36 am: Edit|
Did you ever get an answer to your questions? If not, here goes:
Basically, Shimer offers a degree in liberal arts with one of four areas of concentration: humanities, social science, natural science, or general studies. Your concentration is determined solely by the electives you take and/or the transfer credits you bring in, since virtually all Shimer students take the same core classes.
Shimer does not have a pool. The school does subsidize memberships to the local YMCA, which has a pool and various other athletic facilities. It's a lenghty walk to the Y, however, so this may not be practical if you don't have a car.
If you have other questions about Shimer, feel free to send an e-mail to me at email@example.com
|By catherine manfredi yronwode on Saturday, February 22, 2003 - 03:01 am: Edit|
Shimer is unique. I was a student there in the mid 1960s, an early entrant (not at all unusual then) and a drop-out (ditto). The reputation Shimer had for marijuana in the 1960s, as mentioned above, was well-deserved. The area around Mt. Carroll, where the campus was located at that time, had been heavily cultivated with fiber-grade hemp up through World War One, and stands of naturalized "ditch weed" grew everywhere. Industrious students with a background in botany could harvest and dry this low-THC cntent cannibis, then pack it into suitcases and take the Burlington Northern train to Chicago for the weekend. There, on blues-ruch Maxwell Street, the Mt. Carroll ditch weed could be traded in for a certain amount of THC-rich Mexican-grown marijuana, which the Chicago marijuana dealers were eager have in order to cut their goods and increase their profit. The small amount of Acapulco Gold thus acquired by the students was in turn brought back to Shimer and there used to cut another harvest of ditch weed, which was then marketed to fellow students. A cashless barter economy was thus established, and other socio-cultural experiments were enabled as well. All this and the Federalist Papers, too!
|By Lawyergirl4989 (Lawyergirl4989) on Saturday, February 21, 2004 - 07:51 pm: Edit|
Is there a lot of marijuana use now?
|By Randombob (Randombob) on Friday, February 27, 2004 - 12:22 am: Edit|
Yes, there is a lot of marijuana use at Shimer now. It is common to hear students and administration refer to it as "just pot." The drug scene includes alcohol, cocaine, ectasy, dxm, herione, speed, and "just pot" to name a few. Not everyone does drugs, but the prevailing stated opinion of students has been that the administration looks the other way. There are measures being taken to curtail the drug scene at Shimer, but the results are yet to be seen. The school has the potential to provide an excellent education, but as always the success of the student is largely determined by their own efforts and ability to moderate their drug and alcohol use or abstain all together. It is the type of school that would almost require someone to seek a Masters, PhD, or equivalent higher level specialized degree to gain employment. As to teaching the students to think; this is tempered by what a student can learn in such a heavily drug infested environment. There is an arrogance and anti-authoritarian vein that runs throughout the school which may or may not serve to better our society. Students are given quite a bit of latitude while they learn to think; and thus, are prone to making quite a few mistakes often of a very serious life-altering nature.
|By Pjk (Pjk) on Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - 06:11 pm: Edit|
I don't think that randombob's characterization of Shimer as a "heavily drug infested environment" is really fair. Is there a drug scene at Shimer? Sure. Is it the all-pervasive cancer on the academic and social life of the college that it is portrayed as? I don't think so.
I have carved out a very active social life and a large circle of friends at Shimer despite being a social drinker (i.e. an average of maybe 2-3 drinks a week) and a non-user of illegal drugs who mostly associates with people of similar habits. It has never proved at all difficult for me to stick to my guns in this regard, either--no one has ever attempted to pressure me into doing things I don't want to do.
While I agree that it's disingenuous to argue that marijuana use is harmless to the user or the user's community, it's equally, if not more, disingenuous to lump moderate and recreational use of pot with the use of far more immediately dangerous drugs such as heroin, speed, or cocaine. Once you weed out the weekend tipplers and tokers, the Shimer "drug scene" stops looking like some sort of non-stop bacchanalian orgy and starts looking like it does at a lot of small liberal arts colleges with countercultural leanings--I'm thinking of places like Reed, Grinnell, Oberlin, etc.--that is to say, a small number of people with big problems and a larger number of people with small problems.
There are those for whom *any* exposure to alcohol or other drugs is a bad idea; I would certainly encourage such a person to think twice about Shimer, but I temper this admission with the first-hand knowledge that it's only marginally more difficult for a motivated person to get in similar trouble at any college in America, including such famously dry places as Baylor, Wheaton and West Point.
As for the education provided, I have spoken to that previously, but I will say that I can't imagine that Shimer students are significantly *less* prepared for employment than other liberal arts grads. Shimer makes no bones about its institutional disdain for education-as-job-training. The focus of the education I've received has been to prepare me for graduate school, and I would suggest that that's what you go to Shimer to do.
As for the question of whether Shimer teaches one "how to think," I personally don't buy that as a slogan or as an accurate description of what goes on here, and I frankly wish the school wouldn't use it. Shimer certainly has not taught me how to think, if you regard thinking as a skill that can be taught, along the lines of a calculus course teaching the skill of finding the area under a curve. Shimer, rather, encourages an approach to difficult questions and difficult texts which (if placed in the right hands) can yield exciting results, and attempts to teach students how to express those results in ways which make sense to other people. And that's very cool, but if someone comes away from Shimer with the belief that that is what thinking is and that they have been taught how to do it, they are a) bound to be pretty disappointed and b) kind of missing the point.
|By Pipes (Pipes) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 01:52 pm: Edit|
If it is the PJ I know, he is in his own mind, and please take his comments with a grain of salt. :-) If it isn't, I apologize.
To answer the questions:
Would I go there if I had the chance to do it over again: YES
Would I send my children there: MAYBE (I'll explain later)
Would I recommend the school: YES (*)
Shimer (I am a grad) is an interesting place. Yes, it is very small. To emphasize how small, my graduating class was (I think) 14 people in 1998. We were the second largets graduating class in a very long time, since Mt. Carroll days I believe. I worked, lived, and had every single class as my roommate ( If you are not comfortable with this, don't go, as you will be dissappointed.) The running joke was: anywhere a Shimer student/grad goes (primarily Chicago), you will run into another Shimer Student. Given the student size and Chicago population, the odds are rare, but it *always* happened. Hell, it even happened to me this summer! as we went to Colorado Springs and took the Pikes Peak Cog and ran into a former students father, living in Evanston. NOTE: I live in South TX.
My educational background was heavy in maths, arts, and sciences. Shimer does not cater to these students, when viewing the core cirriculum. Now, the nice thing about Shimer is that if you can muster 2 - 4 students, and if a professor is available, you can create an elective. We (6 people) lobbied for a sculpture class, and we got one. Languages are often electives. You do get full elective credit (and pay for) these classes.
I visited the Mt Carroll campus in 1996. If Shimer was there, and I had the invitation to attend, I would probably say yes, if and only if I had a car. It is a great campus; however, the surroundings doesn't have anything to offer students outside of the classroom. I have digital photos of it, if anyone would like to view them.
What is meant by "Shimer teaches you how to think", is based on several premises:
1) You don't want to go to a school that requires memorization and limited contact with others, including the teaching staff;
2) You don't want a test that reflects a teachers lecture, rather prefer to take the original source and be "tested" upon it;
3) You are not in a position to be pressured by peers, aka sororities/fraternities, etc...
Yes, there are valid and good merits to the contrary; however, "how does one learn how to think" doesn't go very far when you are in an environment that doesn't nuture and foster these premises.
Shimer's ethos is community (M. Buber's "I - You" not "I - It" relationships). Community in the class, outside of class, working (yes you can perform work study programs), and part of the staff meetings that discuss and plan out fiscal budgets, and other key ingredients that make the college survive. Paradigm shifts occur very often and they are influenced by students, which do come and go. Shimer students have to become very independent, as supervision is practically non-existent.
Many of these key aspects of the college have one major impact on the students that attend: intellectual awareness
I am not talking about 'oh' moments. I am talking about moments where you go "OH!", and then shifts occur. Shifts in the mind, emotion, perception, language, thought, passion. The "essence" of the student becomes aware, but on the metaphysical level to the 10th power. The ones that are weeded out are, exactly that, weeded out and move on elsewhere. Take a look at the masters program there: education! Development cycles within one's being.
I describe what Shimer did for me is: as Spheres connected with other spheres, very similar to a web. If you imagine the mind, there are "links" between memories, words, visions, etc.. Shimer changes them, creates new ones, expands them. How one learns and thinks depends on how these links are created. If someone puts them there, no extended exploration occurs. If "I" put them there, I can go back and retrace my steps and relearn the process again and expand or completely change it, as I have the critical key: what is it that I think about something, not what does someone else think about it.
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