5 min read ⌚
The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life
You may think that people going to elite colleges end up being better educated than most of the people, but the reality is very different.
Teachers, parents, and all kinds of figures of authority disable the capability of critical thinking in students’ minds. As a result, elite schools produce graduates who share the same views, go after the same professions and live the same lives.
In our summary of “Excellent Sheep,” you will learn why the educational system is the way it is, and how you can use your college years to gain some real education.
Who Should Read “Excellent Sheep”? and Why?
Author William Deresiewicz was one of those children that lived in a family that highly valued science, education, the Ivy League and a stable career.
When he grew up, he became a professor at Yale University, but later he quit to go after his dream of being a writer.
His fierce criticism of elite colleges, teachers, parents, and teachers, comes from his personal experience.
We recommend “Excellent Sheep” to students, parents, employers, and professors. We believe that it will open up discussions that lead toward creating better values.
About William Deresiewic
William Deresiewicz is a former Yale professor, and a writer and speaker on a wide variety of topics, including education.
“Excellent Sheep Summary”
The world is filled with brilliant young people.
America’s best bright leaders, overachievers, and active volunteers make a beeline for the Ivy League or other elite colleges.
Here’s how it goes:
Upon graduation, they enter America’s legislative and justice systems. Then, they fill the best positions of prestigious law, finance and banking and consulting firms. They lead the nation and have done so for quite a long time.
Unfortunately, they are destroying it.
Nowadays, students enter school experiencing dread, stress, depression, and loneliness. They come from privileged, upper-middle-class or wealthy families, and have known only achievement and positive feedback all their lives.
They buckle down in secondary school, accomplishing excellent grades, and founding or leading different clubs and groups.
An Ivy League or top tier college is the only thing they can imagine for themselves.
You may think otherwise, but in reality, a minimal level of true diversity exists at top tier US colleges. Yes, it is true that undergrads of all races and religions, coming from all around the world, mix. However, when you look at them carefully, you will notice that their perspectives are the same.
Elite universities accept understudies that do not come from upper-middle class backgrounds. However, they do it in such low numbers that it changes nearly nothing.
Top tier students think alike, act alike, go to similar schools, take similar courses and enter the similar professions.
Their incapability to go out on a limb, to involve in critical thinking or to envision a superior way of doing things implies falling institutions, fizzling economies, and failing governments and countries.
The limited path to a top tier school implies little or no time for something else besides studies and organized activities. Students fear disappointing their folks or failing by pursuing degrees or courses that satisfy their passions.
Universities, especially top ones, do not teach students how to think for themselves anymore. When they enter, they may show curiosity, but at the end of their education they end up making safe decisions.
Elite students demonstrate no vulnerabilities. Their lone interest is their future vocation.
Of course, there are some exceptions.
However, the few that do find a unique purpose stress that their choices are not good enough and fear that society will judge them.
This pushes a significant portion of them back to the tight scope of the careers their colleagues seek after.
We explained the way that things are in the education system, but one question remains: how did we get there?
Universities are not the only ones to blame in this situation. They share the blame with parents, who add to the intensity of rivalry by pushing their children into organized activities and by arguing that only losers get bad grades.
Parents meddle with secondary school administration to request they prepare kids for the university admission process.
Children who pine for their parents’ acclaim are ready to do anything in their power to maintain a distance from criticism.
As a result, parents push their kids to control their weaknesses and insecurities.
The children, as far as it matters for them, never build up their advantages and interests. They create a false image of themselves, which is directed to meeting the desires of the authorities in the environment they live in.
Key Lessons from “Excellent Sheep”
1. Finding Your Partnership’s Focus
2. The Need to Rehearse
3. Keeping the Motion
Funding and Research
Schools and universities focus on funding and revenue. They distort their original purpose which is providing a quality education and a traditional concentration on the humanities, as a result of encouraging the development of vocational skills.
In the end, colleges aim to create a pile of future donors.
Admissions officers search for leaders. Colleges create leaders.
However, what kind of leaders are we talking about?
In reality, the leaders that universities produce rarely do anything to improve the world. Instead, they are leaders that do and create what others expect them to.
In other words, they are great at keeping the system alive and active.
Advice for Students
You understand the situation, but what can you do about it?
Stop letting people around you make you a commodity, and stop caring only about being employable. The reason you decide to go to college should not be just getting a return on investment in the end. Instead, consider it as a life choice. Books and classes will not teach you how to think; they will only give you skills that can take you as far as being a compliant employee.
Instead of becoming just another person in the crowd, use your college years to develop your critical thinking and analytical skills.
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“Excellent Sheep” QuotesBut there is something that’s a great deal more important than parental approval: learning to do without it. That’s what it means to become an adult. Click To Tweet You won’t be able to recognize the things you really care about until you have released your grip on all the things that you’ve been taught to care about. Click To Tweet If you grow up with less, you are much better able to deal with having less. That is itself a kind of freedom. Click To Tweet A real reader creates her own canon, for it consists precisely of those books that she has used to create herself. Click To Tweet For that is one of the greatest curses of the high-achieving mentality: the envy that it forces on you - the desperation, not simply to be loved, but to be loved, as Auden says, alone. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
In “Excellent Sheep,” Deresiewicz presents a system of higher education in which elite colleges are only after prestige and funding, parents push children to increase their sense of self-worth and students study things that are not passionate about, but which promise them high salaries.
However, you should not take these comments literally.
Daresiewicz is passionate about his message, but as much as it is a good thing, it also makes him push his arguments to the extreme. He takes the rules into consideration and forgets about the many exceptions.
Learn more and more, in the speed that the world demands.