Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

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The_Pluviophile

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Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby The_Pluviophile » Wed Nov 30, 2016 10:43 am

Ok, so here are two Yale 250s I've written. The first was a very early on and never fully elaborated PS idea. Dunno why it stuck with me, I just really like van Gogh. The second was a random idea and I think its pretty self explanatory. Only context is that I've taken some super random anthropology courses with my elective credits while in undergrad. For some context, my PS (also not finished...) is essentially an overcoming obstacles type topic. Perhaps the first topic is too closely related? Finally, the first is already within word count (248) while the second is quite a bit over at this point (280), so it obviously needs editing. Any and all feedback is welcome! :D

Essay 1:
Vincent van Gogh is a personal hero of mine. Not because of his art, although its beauty and his transformative vision has resonated across generations, and not because I am myself an artist, at least in any accepted sense of the word. I also recognize, of course, that as a man estranged from his family (with the vital exception of his younger brother, Theo), plagued by mental illness, and perhaps best known for his radical self-harm and eventual suicide, he is not the ideal role-model.

Still, I find inspiration in the tragic tale of a man, derided and cast out in his own time, who, nevertheless, continued to pursue, with singular focus, his passion. van Gogh needed no praise, no glory, no acclaim to persist, and the world is undoubtedly better for this devotedness. I see in van Gogh’s life a kind of determination I think is worthy of striving for. I, too, seek to be the kind of person who persists in my passions not because I seek fame or approval, but because it is what I love to do. This is what it means to truly be passionate about something. And while I certainly do not consider myself a visionary on the level of van Gogh, I use his life to remind myself that sometimes innovators are ridiculed, sometimes genius gains no recognition in its time, and sometimes glory only comes to the dead. Silence or scorn from others is never a reason to give up.

Essay 2:
As humans, we have a unique tendency to prescribe either grand or unknowable origins to aspects of our humanity. The existence of many diverse human cultures is one such aspect. Animals, after all, do not exhibit unique patterns of mating, kinship, and social stratification due to being raised in a particular group. From an anthropological perspective, however, the explanation for human culture, of any kind, is quite straightforward and lies in two simple facts: we walk on two legs, and we have big heads.

First, being bipedal is significant primarily because it limits the maximum width of human hips. This is because hips that surpass a certain width cannot maintain a two-legged, upright walking position. Narrow hips correspond to a smaller birthing canal. This is where the ‘big head’ issue arises. As cranium size increased among our bipedal ancestors, small birthing canals became an obvious problem. Thus, hominids began giving birth to increasing less developed infants. Evolutionarily, this speaks to a preference for increased reason and logic (associated with growth in cranium size) over physical prowess. More importantly, however, the less developed an infant is at birth, the more time there is for learning behaviors from their environment and those around them. This type of learning is what allows culture.

Such an explanation may seem irrelevant to anyone who isn’t an anthropologist, but as someone who spent much of her undergraduate years studying human conflict in one form or another, it is fascinating to me to explore the link between two seemingly modest evolutionary facts and something that is so crucial to our understandings of who we are. We owe an awful lot to having two legs and big heads.

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby Hennessy » Thu Dec 01, 2016 4:10 pm

Narrow hips is better written, and more a more captivating read.

Rooting for you for Yale!

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby BobBoblaw » Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:45 pm

I also like the narrow hips one, and I think that your essential conclusion is solid and interesting, but that your argument is flawed, because you assert that culture as such is not found in animals. This sentence in particular is patently false:

Animals, after all, do not exhibit unique patterns of mating, kinship, and social stratification due to being raised in a particular group.

There are many examples of culture in animals, whether it be certain populations of primates using tools or foraging a certain way, or the geographically variable learned songs of most oscine birds.

Luckily for you, your main point is still valid. The relationship between hips and head size of our infants does means that we are born underdeveloped and thus have a very long period of dependency on our parents. it is not a question of being born underdeveloped, as you put it. Marsupials arguably are born more underdeveloped, and there is nothing in marsupials that you could call culture. Again, your main point is fine, just be careful with how you phrase it. It's a question of how long offspring depend on their parents. Humans do depend on their parents far longer than any other animal, and so it makes sense that our culture is more pronounced and elaborate. The fact that many species that also show cultural variations between populations (apes, some whales, elephants, etc.) also have fairly long periods of dependency really just kind of reinforces your theory in my mind.

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tinman

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby tinman » Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:58 pm

I recommend neither because there is a fair chance a YLS admissions officer will read this thread.

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34iplaw

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby 34iplaw » Thu Dec 01, 2016 6:52 pm

BobBoblaw wrote:There are many examples of culture in animals, whether it be certain populations of primates using tools or foraging a certain way, or the geographically variable learned songs of most oscine birds.


Furthermore, chimpanzees are about to come out with their own edition of Vogue.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-new ... 180951888/

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Kaziende

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby Kaziende » Thu Dec 01, 2016 7:06 pm

Van Gogh was mildly off-putting. A little too 'tortured soul' for my tastes. Probably not the right aesthetic for Yale. Go with narrow hips. It's a good essay.

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby Monday » Thu Dec 01, 2016 7:55 pm

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Last edited by Monday on Wed May 10, 2017 11:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby lawlorbust » Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:21 pm

Kaziende wrote:Van Gogh was mildly off-putting. A little too 'tortured soul' for my tastes. Probably not the right aesthetic for Yale. Go with narrow hips. It's a good essay.


Have you met anyone who goes to Yale?

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Kaziende

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby Kaziende » Fri Dec 02, 2016 2:36 am

lawlorbust wrote:
Kaziende wrote:Van Gogh was mildly off-putting. A little too 'tortured soul' for my tastes. Probably not the right aesthetic for Yale. Go with narrow hips. It's a good essay.


Have you met anyone who goes to Yale?

:lol:

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The_Pluviophile

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby The_Pluviophile » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:04 am

BobBoblaw wrote:I also like the narrow hips one, and I think that your essential conclusion is solid and interesting, but that your argument is flawed, because you assert that culture as such is not found in animals. This sentence in particular is patently false:

Animals, after all, do not exhibit unique patterns of mating, kinship, and social stratification due to being raised in a particular group.

There are many examples of culture in animals, whether it be certain populations of primates using tools or foraging a certain way, or the geographically variable learned songs of most oscine birds.

Luckily for you, your main point is still valid. The relationship between hips and head size of our infants does means that we are born underdeveloped and thus have a very long period of dependency on our parents. it is not a question of being born underdeveloped, as you put it. Marsupials arguably are born more underdeveloped, and there is nothing in marsupials that you could call culture. Again, your main point is fine, just be careful with how you phrase it. It's a question of how long offspring depend on their parents. Humans do depend on their parents far longer than any other animal, and so it makes sense that our culture is more pronounced and elaborate. The fact that many species that also show cultural variations between populations (apes, some whales, elephants, etc.) also have fairly long periods of dependency really just kind of reinforces your theory in my mind.


Completely agree with the bit about animals. It's already been deleted from a more recent draft. The whole first paragraph I think needs re-working in general. I also agree the the world "underdeveloped" is an inaccurate representation of the issue, I just wasn't sure how else to phrase it (concisely). It obviously needs work. Thanks for the input!

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby The_Pluviophile » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:09 am

Thanks for the input everyone! I was already leaning in the direction of the anthro one, and this thread has pretty much confirmed the first just one isn't as good. I feel like the narrow hips one is more memorable.

I do have a third, completely different one (I fell into a hole of writing these things a few days ago while procrastinating editing my personal statement). That is one is quite personal (it's a family anecdote), so I am hesitant to post it here, but if anyone is willing to read and give feedback on that one I'd really appreciate it!

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby The_Pluviophile » Fri Dec 02, 2016 8:31 am

Monday wrote:You might be better off writing an entirely new one. As the above poster put it, Essay 1 is off-putting. Essay 2 is problematic. For instance, the notion "the less developed an infant is at birth, the more time there is for learning behaviors from their environment and those around them" makes no sense. Why is there more time (than before) to learn behaviors if the infant is less developed (than before)? Humans aren't solitary animals: there's a reason why assimilation into cultures, even by adult immigrants, can happen and with relative ease. And of course, intelligence.


The point that I'm trying to make (perhaps unclearly, which is of course the problem) is that humans are born less developed than many other animals, meaning they have less inherent knowledge of 'what to do' at birth and must spend a considerably longer period of time learning what to do and how to do it from their environment. This 'learning what to do' from our environment is literally culture is (from an anthropological perspective, because of course definitions vary).

I don't think I quite understand your point about being able to assimilate into other cultures in adulthood (I also think the notion of assimilation with 'relative ease' is arguable, but that's not relevant). I'm not suggesting that after development we lose the ability to gain culture; I'm saying that culture exists because we have such long development periods outside the womb. If we were all born and could walk and talk and feed ourselves right away culture wouldn't have developed at all because we wouldn't need to learn those nuances from our environments (which is, again, the functional definition of culture). The longer the period of time between birth and full development, the more room there is for environmental learning. Also, to clarify, I'm arguing this evolutionary understanding as a necessary, not a sufficient cause for culture. Obviously there are other factors that contribute.

In any event, I think the fact that several people have taken issue with the argument is an indication that it isn't clear enough, which is good to know. I'll certainly rewrite it if I decide to stick with the topic at all.

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby dojodawg » Fri Dec 02, 2016 9:48 am

Don't compare yourself to van gogh. I think it's assumed that you're not going to law school for fame so there's no need to write an essay patting yourself on the back.

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby Monday » Fri Dec 02, 2016 11:06 am

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby KissMyAxe » Fri Dec 02, 2016 11:49 am

tinman wrote:I recommend neither because there is a fair chance a YLS admissions officer will read this thread.


No, there's not.

OP, send me a PM. I'm mostly free today after a week from hell. I'm happy to help out on your application.

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The_Pluviophile

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby The_Pluviophile » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:07 pm

Monday wrote:
The_Pluviophile wrote:
Monday wrote:You might be better off writing an entirely new one. As the above poster put it, Essay 1 is off-putting. Essay 2 is problematic. For instance, the notion "the less developed an infant is at birth, the more time there is for learning behaviors from their environment and those around them" makes no sense. Why is there more time (than before) to learn behaviors if the infant is less developed (than before)? Humans aren't solitary animals: there's a reason why assimilation into cultures, even by adult immigrants, can happen and with relative ease. And of course, intelligence.


The point that I'm trying to make (perhaps unclearly, which is of course the problem) is that humans are born less developed than many other animals, meaning they have less inherent knowledge of 'what to do' at birth and must spend a considerably longer period of time learning what to do and how to do it from their environment. This 'learning what to do' from our environment is literally culture is (from an anthropological perspective, because of course definitions vary).

I don't think I quite understand your point about being able to assimilate into other cultures in adulthood (I also think the notion of assimilation with 'relative ease' is arguable, but that's not relevant). I'm not suggesting that after development we lose the ability to gain culture; I'm saying that culture exists because we have such long development periods outside the womb. If we were all born and could walk and talk and feed ourselves right away culture wouldn't have developed at all because we wouldn't need to learn those nuances from our environments (which is, again, the functional definition of culture). The longer the period of time between birth and full development, the more room there is for environmental learning. Also, to clarify, I'm arguing this evolutionary understanding as a necessary, not a sufficient cause for culture. Obviously there are other factors that contribute.

In any event, I think the fact that several people have taken issue with the argument is an indication that it isn't clear enough, which is good to know. I'll certainly rewrite it if I decide to stick with the topic at all.

The point about assimilation was actually to preempt this argument that learning at underdeveloped infant-hood is a necessary cause for culture. It certainly facilitates the transmission of culture from one generation to another, but Essay 2 has not yet made a proper case for the claim that without this underdeveloped stage, culture, even if defined functionally, would not exist. Your alternate scenario where we are "all born and could walk and talk and feed ourselves right away" does not preclude our need to learn "what to do" from our environments. If we were all born and knew how to feed ourselves yet you knew how to hunt (and thereby feed yourself) more and more efficiently, we would all learn "what to do" from you (because we are not unintelligent and presumably we are able to observe you) and that would become part of our culture. Competition is very much a part of the animal kingdom (in fact intraspecific competition accounts for parts of animal "cultures"), so our need to learn from you so as to better our chances at reproduction and survival would exist.

If you go with this one, you definitely should make clear some of the points, esp. the definition you are using. The first sentence of the conclusion (where you are introduced for the first time) feels like a filler sentence. Neither your background in (cultural) anthropology nor your fascination adds much to the essay as a whole since I assume both of these facts can be gleaned from your academic record and from the fact that you wrote an essay on the topic.


Skill or proficiency at survival (such as hunting) is not the same thing as culture? Maybe I'm miss reading your argument, but I think the problem we're having is definitely a disagreement over the definition, so I absolutely agree clarifying my working definition needs to be included. As for the bit about myself at the end, I think you're right; it doesn't add very much.

I'm feeling less and less confident about this essay. But that's the point of getting feedback :)

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby Monday » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:31 pm

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Last edited by Monday on Wed May 10, 2017 11:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby tinman » Fri Jan 06, 2017 12:10 pm

KissMyAxe wrote:
tinman wrote:I recommend neither because there is a fair chance a YLS admissions officer will read this thread.


No, there's not.

OP, send me a PM. I'm mostly free today after a week from hell. I'm happy to help out on your application.


I'm outdated, as I graduated YLS in 2012. But at the time I'd say there was a good chance the admissions people see a thread about a Yale 250. I don't think they'd be trolling these boards obsessively. But their jobs include being informed.

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Re: Yale 250 - van Gogh or narrow hips?

Postby KissMyAxe » Fri Jan 06, 2017 3:18 pm

tinman wrote:
KissMyAxe wrote:
tinman wrote:I recommend neither because there is a fair chance a YLS admissions officer will read this thread.


No, there's not.

OP, send me a PM. I'm mostly free today after a week from hell. I'm happy to help out on your application.


I'm outdated, as I graduated YLS in 2012. But at the time I'd say there was a good chance the admissions people see a thread about a Yale 250. I don't think they'd be trolling these boards obsessively. But their jobs include being informed.


I don't know who the YLS admissions officers were at the time, so I'll yield to your knowledge there, but I know for a fact that the new office does not go onto this site. I don't see how being informed is in any way related to going on TLS, especially since 90% of the information on here is inaccurate. The fact is, they are an incredibly small office who have to go through a ton of applications every day. (There's either 3 or 4 in admissions right now). Each admissions officer has to go through 1000+ applications and deal with the random assignment to professors. They're too busy to scour every post about their school.



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