I’m not through with silly advertising, but I’m going to take a very brief detour into slightly different territory — a t-shirt I observed downtown the other day on the back of a young man. The text was:
Where the only thing to go down on you is your GPA.T-shirt
“Hmmm,” I thought. “That sounds like something that someone at the University of Chicago [A.B., 1983] might say.” I discreetly stepped up my pace and took a look at the front — where the shirt sported the University of Chicago name and logo.
This wasn’t a lucky guess on my part. The University of Chicago ranks high academically, but near or at the bottom socially. If you want to learn how to think and analyze, go to the University of Chicago. If you want to have fun (however you define fun), go somewhere — anywhere — else. And if you want to not have fun with people who look like they’ve stayed up all night in an earnest attempt to find something original to say about Thucydides and who enjoyed the exercise, you’ll definitely want to attend the University of Chicago.
If you want to have fun with someone who looks like they don’t know and don’t care who Thucydides was and who is gearing up to get through their public speaking class on the road toward that coveted mass communications degree, then the University of Chicago is a good place to avoid.
Of course, if students at the University of Chicago wanted to surround themselves with fun peers, they might think twice about wearing discouraging t-shirts that advertise the university’s renowned lack of appeal to the party animal extrovert. But then it’s just possible that surrounding themselves with people who read Thucydides is what passes for excitement.
At this point, I’ll admit that I too wore such a t-shirt. It had been designed for the all-male house next door. It showed the Brooks Brothers sheep on the front; on the back, under my long hair (which people would boldly move aside), were the words:
Upper Rickert: Where the men are men and the sheep are nervous.A former t-shirt
I wore the shirt for years — even after someone helpfully explained to me what it meant.
Twenty-five years ago, someone would have had to explain to me, “Where the only thing to go down on you is your GPA,” too.
No wonder we didn’t have fun. We didn’t know how to.
Perhaps the University of Chicago needs to add sex education to the Common Core.