Are The Odds Really In Our Favor?

As a self-proclaimed pre- med student, I am surely not unfamiliar with the term “weeder class.” However, if you have had the luxury of not experiencing one, or simply are unaware, I will sum it up for you. A weeder class is a course, usually a prerequisite, that is known to have a high drop out rate or causes students to reconsider their major or career path. These courses are designed to be an academic hunger games. The best of the best survive and move on while the rest are left behind to find a new life path. The ideas in Menand’s Theory one are apparent through all aspects of these courses. According to Menand’s theory, college is meant to be “a four year intelligence test.” The courses one takes are meant to test their intelligence so he or she can be sorted based on his or her ability. In my life, these weeder classes do exactly that.

Lecture Hall at Baruch College. Image captured on the day of an Economics Final Exam.

The University of Michigan is no stranger to providing rigorous courses. Many students enter their freshman year with a pan to become a doctor, engineer, or hopefully be admitted to the business school. It is not until they have failed their first exam, acquired test anxiety, or have experienced one too many breakdowns that they realize  they may be on the wrong path. Sakib Jabbar, a writer for Uloop, one of the university’s news sources, explains his experience with the prevalence of weeder classes on campus. In his article, he describes the competition that takes place in order to set the curve and receive the best marks. His description directly correlates with Menand’s first theory where “all that matter is the grades.” It is obvious of the prevalence Menand’s theory has on college today, but does it stop after graduation?

In this day in age, the market for high paying jobs is becoming more and more competitive. In addition, the competition for admittance in the graduate programs necessary to obtain these high paying jobs has also heightened. It seems as though Menand’s theory is going beyond the lecture hall and into the professional world. As if one’s entire life is becoming an intelligence test, opposed the four years Menand has suggested in his article. Not only does one have to compete in high to gain acceptance to a good university, as well as triumph through the obstacles, such as weeder classes in college, but now they must also compete for spots in graduate programs and jobs.

An intern tests foot sensation on a patient.

If one is on the pre-med track, such as myself, he or she will not only have to be accepted to medical school, which currently has a 43.1% acceptance rate according to, but also gain acceptance to a residence program based on a ranking method between the students and the programs. Even after becoming an m.d. each person is still required to continue with testing throughout their life in the profession in order to stay licensed. This is just one example of how Menand’s first theory is being applied to situation beyond college.

In my life, as is the same with the lives of thousands of me peers; Menand’s first theory may seem inescapable. Although I believe that his theory is necessary for some professions, I do question if it is healthy for one to be under that the stress of competition for such long periods of time. I personally am already looking at other career options, despite my passion for health care and helping people. Menand’s first theory has a huge prevalence in my life, and I currently find myself choosing between two paths: one where I am forced to persevere and overcome the obstacles in order to fulfill my dreams, and another where I find a new passion and preserve my mental and emotional sanity.

Photo provided by BEdition magazine


3 thoughts on “Are The Odds Really In Our Favor?

  1. It is very interesting how you compared Menand’s theories on education to life here at the University. The comparison is certainly easy to see as weeder classes here do separate intelligence levels as Menand claims is the purpose of college in general. Though there are many circumstances which affect one’s decision to go to college including finances and family pressures, weeder classes are more effective examples of Menand’s first theory. Weeder classes are standard for all the students enrolled. Those who work harder will get better grades and pass. There are no circumstances surrounding weeder classes which cause bias because the students are taking the same exams and doing the same homework. As opposed to college, where there are numerous reasons for one not being able to attend besides lack of intelligence, weeder classes do separate levels of effort. I agree with you that in a broader sense, Menand’s theory is correct, because there cannot be equality for different amounts of effort and success. In society, hard work should be rewarded, and all people cannot be on the same intellectual level. The variation in intelligence levels provides motivation for lower classes, creates the socioeconomic structure, and also affects politics. Though college in general may not be a fair sorting mechanism, especially in modern society where economic pressures have an enormous impact, weeder classes are very important in college. Good luck with the pre-med track!


  2. While I do believe a pre-med track is very demanding and stressful, I think this theory applies to all majors and career paths at the University of Michigan, if you let it. The type of students who attend the University of Michigan are smart, competitive, and driven; they are the one’s who prove Menand’s theory true. I think this Theory of competition can be avoided in college, however, not at the University of Michigan. It’s this level of competition that makes the University of Michigan a school of the leaders and best.


  3. I think it is very interesting how you compared Menand’s theory to your own educational experience. Your line when you said, “although I believe that his theory is necessary for some professions, I do question if it is healthy for one to be under that the stress of competition for such long periods of time,” sparked my interest, because although I agree that stress is unhealthy, I do believe it is necessary. I find it extremely necessary in the case of pre-med students. The reason I believe this is simple: doctors experience extreme stress within their job. However, I am not talking about stress of constantly taking new courses, I am talking about the stress of having people’s lives in your hands. Doctors must hold the burden of everyones illnesses in their hands, causing the person to experience great deals of stress. Therefore, the classes students take must prepare them to undergo this stress in the future, and if they cannot handle it now, obviously they won’t be able to handle the stress later in life, showing that the job was not meant for them. Therefore, I think Menand’s theory one is essential to the academic process, for without it, people could become anything they wanted, even if they couldn’t handle it.


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