「長春藤」情意結

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1990 / 3月

文‧李光真 圖‧鄭元慶



提起「長春藤盟校」,不少人會聯想到深秋楓紅、爬滿了長春藤的古老建築,和徜徉其間、衣飾優雅的貴族子弟們,他們個個家世良好,將來也是上流社會的中堅分子……

這個印象或許和現實情況稍有出入,但也不算離譜。

長春藤八所盟校——哈佛(創校於一六三六年)、耶魯(一七○一年)、賓夕法尼亞(一七四○年)、普林斯頓(一七四六年)、哥倫比亞(一七五四年)、布朗(一七六四年)、達特茅斯學院(一七六九年),及康乃爾(一八五三年),至今仍然聲譽不墜,還是美國的「學術貴族」。

歷史悠久,位於人文薈萃、景物豐美的美國東北部,長春藤盟校自然有其優越條件。也難怪哈佛、耶魯和普林斯頓「三巨頭」稱霸美國教育整整兩百多年,直到近卅年來,西岸的史丹福大學和加州柏克萊大學崛起才算打破「三分天下」的壟斷局勢,使「長春藤」氣燄稍挫。

除了「三巨頭」外,長春藤盟校個個實力驚人。以在台灣較不為人知的達特茅斯學院為例,全校總共只有四千五百名學生,規模袖珍,卻也高居全美排行榜第六名,僅次於前述五校之後。總括來說,長春藤八所盟校全數美國「五顆星級」(也就是課業競爭最激烈型),強烈的榮譽感和自律心,使得這些學校始終暗中較勁,誰也不肯降低品質。

有趣的是,「長春藤盟校」一詞,響亮歸響亮,原來卻和教學本身沒有什麼關聯。發明這個名詞的,竟然是位三○年代紐約前鋒論壇報的體育記者。

原來這些貴族子弟們酷愛橄欖球(美式足球),彼此間也常有橄欖球及各種運動的校際比賽,再加上原本就氣質相近,用各校共有的、象徵古老優雅的景觀特色——「長春藤」——一詞來統稱倒也貼切。到了一九五六年,這八所學校更組成正式的運動聯盟,每年都舉辦各種競賽,更提昇了長春藤盟校的「共同意識」及榮譽感。

長春藤盟校全屬私立學校,它們的「貴」和「好」,使得一般美國學生往往不得其門而入。在廣漠的中西部或許沒人在乎,但在門第觀念仍然根深柢固的新英格蘭地區,「長春藤」一詞就不免常惹人「反感」了。

在許多文學作品中,「長春藤」一詞總帶有「虛榮」、「矯飾」、「虛情假意」、「自私自利」、「勢利眼」……等含意,還有貴族子弟以「拒絕進長春藤盟校念書」來凸顯自己的叛逆性和社會正義感。但另一方面,也有不少寒門子弟想盡方法擠進窄門,為的就是有朝一日,也能功成名就,躋身上流社會……。

在美國,「長春藤情結」一直是個有趣的話題。它的象徵意義,或許更值得玩味吧!

〔圖片說明〕

P.127

典雅的紅磚壁上爬滿了綠色藤類,這便是著名的“長春藤”象徵。圖為普林斯頓大學那索廳(Nassau Hall)。

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EN

The Ivy League Complex

Laura Li /photos courtesy of Arthur Cheng /tr. by Peter Eberly


For quite a few people the mention of Ivy League schools conjures up images of late-autumn maple leaves and ivy-covered old buildings with nattily dressed young patricians milling about in their midst, each from a good family, the future core of the nation's ruling class. . . .

That impression diverges a bit from reality perhaps, but it's not too far off either. The eight schools of the Ivy League--Harvard (founded in 1636), Yale (1701), Penn (1740), Princeton (1746), Columbia (1754), Brown (1764), Dartmouth (1769), and Cornell (1853)--remain undiminished in repute to this day and are still the academic elite among American universities. Steeped in history and situated in the scenic and cultured northeastern part of the United States, the Ivy League schools enjoy many superior natural advantages. The Big Three of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton have dominated American education for more than two centuries, their monopoly lock on the top being broken only in the last thirty years with the rise of Stanford and Berkeley on the West Coast, which has dampened the Ivy League arrogance a bit.

Besides the Big Three, each of the other five schools is astonishingly strong as well. Dartmouth, for instance, little known in Taiwan, has just 4,500 students and a tiny campus, but it ranks sixth in the nation. All eight Ivy League schools are rated five star, and a strong sense of self-esteem has made them more or less overt rivals, none wanting to fall behind the others in terms of quality.

Interestingly enough, the term Ivy League, as resonant and imposing as it may sound, originally had nothing to do with academics. It was coined by a New York sportswriter in the 1930s in reference to the schools' rivalries in football and other sports. The eight universities created a formal athletic league in 1956, and intense matches in various sports each year serve to raise their sense of pride and uniqueness yet further.

All of the Ivy League colleges are privately operated. They are as expensive as they are selective, so that the average American student has no way to get in. Maybe no one minds in the vast West and Midwest, but in New England, where class thinking runs deep, the term Ivy League often produces a bitter taste.

In works of literature the term Ivy League invariably connotes vanity, affectation, hypocrisy, selfishness, snobbishness . . . and some young scions of the rich and powerful have refused to study there simply to accentuate their rebelliousness and sense of social justice. On the other hand, though, many students from impoverished backgrounds have tried every means they can think of to squeeze in, hoping that one day they too can rise to the top through their achievements.

The "Ivy League complex" has always been an interesting topic of discussion in America, and one whose symbolism is well worth exploring!

[Picture Caption]

Red brick walls overgrown with green ivy: a symbol of the Ivy League. The picture is of Princeton University's Nassau Hall.

 

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