Reader WA points out this absurd 2014 article by William Deresiewicz about problems in elite education.

When I speak of elite education, I mean prestigious institutions like Harvard or Stanford or Williams as well as the larger universe of second-tier selective schools, but I also mean everything that leads up to and away from them—the private and affluent public high schools; the ever-growing industry of tutors and consultants and test-prep courses; the admissions process itself, squatting like a dragon at the entrance to adulthood; the brand-name graduate schools and employment opportunities that come after the B.A.; and the parents and communities, largely upper-middle class, who push their children into the maw of this machine. In short, our entire system of elite education.

Good stuff! Every time Williams is mentioned in the same sentence as truly elite institutions like Harvard and Stanford, the better it is for the College’s brand.

The rest of the article, sadly, is mostly garbage.

Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

1) Deresiewicz provides no evidence that non-elite education does a better job at these tasks. Do UMASS and Purdue have an excellent track record of creating “intellectual curiosity?” Hah! It would be one thing if he argued that all of higher education was broken. That might even be true. But to claim that elite is broken, while the third tier is not, is absurd.

2) Deresiewicz provides no evidence that elite education does a worst job at these tasks today than it did 10, 30, 50 or 100 years ago. Every graduating class at Williams has featured Ephs with insatiable intellectual curiosity and others less so blessed (or cursed). You don’t think there were any Ephs in the 1950’s who were “anxious, timid, and lost?” Hah!

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