The Educated Sheep Of The Ivy League

With guest host Jane Clayson.

A loud complaint that some top American colleges are turning out “excellent sheep.” A sharp critique of the Ivy League.

An image from the Princeton University campus. (Instagram / @JessHeart23)

An image from the Princeton University campus. (Instagram / @JessHeart23)

All around this country, the freshman Class of 2019 is packing its bags and will soon be pouring into college campuses in an excited babble.  It has been a long slog for them and their families –SATs, applications, pulling together financing.  And for a very few, fortunate members of this class, the smell of fall in the air is even sweeter as they head to one of the nation’s eight Ivy League colleges.  But don’t feel jealous, says our guest today.  These top schools aren’t offering the great, mind-expanding education you think they are.  This hour, On Point:  A big critique from within the Ivy League.

– Jane Clayson 


 William Deresiewicz, essayist and author. Author of the new book “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite.” Also author of  “A Jane Austen Education.”

Yishai Schwartz, reporter / researcher at the New Republic. (@YishaiSchwartz)

Alexander Nazaryan, senior writer at Newsweek. (@alexnazaryan)

From The Reading List

The New Republic: An Attack on the Ivy League Is an Attack on Meritocracy Itself — “In Deresiewicz’s hands, the word ‘meritocracy’ becomes a canard, as he condemns the Ivy League for creating a perverse incentive-structure and credential rat-race that prevents students from ‘building a soul.’ According to Deresiewicz, the Ivy League’s cutthroat social competition and superficial standards for success drive students (and potential applicants) in artificial, anti-intellectual, and anti-contemplative directions. “

Newsweek: American Horror, Ivy League Edition — “Deresiewicz writes under the implicit assumption that his readers agree with him about what constitutes a “meaningful life” and are, in fact, hubristic enough to judge whether the life of another lonely, confused and bewildered human has ‘meaning’ or not. Though he uses the word on nearly a dozen occasions in the book, it is never quite clear what he means by it, even if his lament for English majors is a pretty good clue.”

Chronicle of Higher Education: William Deresiewicz’s Weird Anti-Ivy Elitism — “Deresiewicz makes a fair point about the absurdity of the college-admissions process in the United States. As a graduate student, working at the writing center, I read many essays written by undergraduates hoping to attend med school that relied on the trope of the Doctor Without Borders (in the vein of  ‘ … as I held the cholera-stricken toddlers, I knew I wanted to go to medical school. … ‘) to try to get traction in an expensive, obscure, and insanely competitive process.”

Read An Excerpt of “Excellent Sheep” by William Deresiewicz


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