Over the past month or so I've meeting (or noticing) more and more UChicago students or alumni who are starting up their own companies, or organizing projects, or are otherwise exercising this really enterpreneurial spirit. This struck me as somewhat paradoxical, given how theory-oriented UChicago is. (And I figured it was possibly just an anomaly, given how common it is for uchicago students/alumni to take the theory-oriented approach as an opportunity to sit on their asses and say that they understand a given principle/phenomenon in theory, and they don't NEED to do anything to exercise it in practice in order to be recognized as a genius.)
But last night Max (who's a good uchicagoan and reads up on university history) told me something that made this paradoxical UChicago entrepreneurialism make complete sense. When John Rockefeller and William Harper were deciding on what the college's cirriculum / educational appraoch should be, they narrowed down their options to two approaches for their undergrads' educations: the "practical" education, or the "academic" education. Upon hearing this, I said, "geeeeee, I wonder which one they chose." But it turns out that they chose the "practical" approach. If they'd chosen the "academic" approach, we'd all be learning ancient Hebrew and translating Bible passages. But they chose the "practical" approach and designed the core and the quarter system to produce future entrepreneurs more effectively than any other university! The quarter system forces you to be on your toes and get you used to diving into a topic within a shorter amount of time, and the core gets you to be able to observe and describe / explain all sorts of different phenomena and principles of the world which diversifies your range of understanding how the world works. I think this is really effective towards producing people who think on their toes, solve problems on short notice, and can understand (and feel relatively confident about) solving problems in a wider range of areas. I almost wish I could go back and do a lot of it over with my new-found appreciation of the core and the university's roots.