Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life
Even as I was agreeing with William Deresiewicz’s well-reasoned arguments about the myth of excellence at elite American colleges, I was thrilled to find my alma mater among the “top schools” mentioned. Which shows how deeply embedded in our culture is the reverence for names like Yale and Harvard, and even my small college, Middlebury. Deresiewicz, a Yale professor, is well-qualified to make the complaints that he does: namely, that elite schools don’t engage students, and may even turn them off from real learning. Once high school students have jumped the hurdles of AP classes and SAT scores needed to be considered by places like Yale, Deresiewicz argues, they expect a golden ticket to the future. Instead, they get more of the same.
Deresiewicz laments the lack of soul-searching in today’s competitive colleges, and notes with dismay the high number of graduates who lack passion and direction. He suggests ways individual students can overcome this, but pays little attention to the fact that many students do not have the money to travel the world after graduation, as he suggests. One wishes that Deresiewicz would have looked a bit farther afield for a solution.