William Deresiewicz, like some other people around here, spent time at Yale, and has some apt criticism of both the objectives and results of American elite education.
Even though he’s a liberal and a romantic who seems to think we need to be producing poets and revolutionaries, he is not wrong in noting that independent thought is not exactly what our most prestigious educational institutions are aiming at.
As one student responds to Deresiewicz in class: â€œSo are you saying that weâ€™re all just, like, really excellent sheep?â€
No, he’s calling you “tools,” actually.
Being an intellectual begins with thinking your way outside of your assumptions and the system that enforces them. But students who get into elite schools are precisely the ones who have best learned to work within the system, so itâ€™s almost impossible for them to see outside it, to see that itâ€™s even there. Long before they got to college, they turned themselves into world-class hoop-jumpers and teacher-pleasers, getting Aâ€™s in every class no matter how boring they found the teacher or how pointless the subject, racking up eight or 10 extracurricular activities no matter what else they wanted to do with their time. …
The world that produced John Kerry and George Bush is indeed giving us our next generation of leaders. The kid whoâ€™s loading up on AP courses junior year or editing three campus publications while double-majoring, the kid whom everyone wants at their college or law school but no one wants in their classroom, the kid who doesnâ€™t have a minute to breathe, let alone think, will soon be running a corporation or an institution or a government. She will have many achievements but little experience, great success but no vision. The disadvantage of an elite education is that itâ€™s given us the elite we have, and the elite weâ€™re going to have.
Hat tip to Tim of Angle.