What’s Fredonia for?

Walking through Baltimore’s airport recently I noticed a wall-length ad for St. John’s College in Annapolis. Pictured was a shelf of the great books of Western Civilization, next to a text that read, “3,000 years of human thought. We do it in four. B.A. in Liberal Arts.”

Any passerby can tell in an instant what St. John’s College is for. I imagine it takes courage to get that specific about your mission, because you have to stop doing a lot of other things to do one thing well: “We do this, not that.”

Then I saw an ad for Loyola Maryland that read like a poem: “Imagine yourself / Making your mark in venture capital / Connecting with political powerhouses / Saving lives in the O.R. / Starting your own record label / Seeing the world from 220 miles above / There is no limit to where a Loyola education can take you.”

Loyola Maryland is trying to be everything. The thing is, there’s a lot of competition in the field of “everything.”

In 200 years I wonder which college will still be around: The one with a specific mission or the one with a general mission (or, perhaps by definition, no mission).