Do you enjoy contemplating and/or arguing bitterly about inequality, democracy, and American society? If so, you are in luck with William Deresiewicz’s essay about the Ivy League in The New Republic. Deresiewicz has undergrad and doctoral degrees from Columbia and taught for 10 years at Yale. But he is not an Ivy League creature any longer—in fact, he was denied tenure—and, upon reflection, he would like to burn the United States’ most elite institutions of higher learning to the ground. Why? To summarize, because they encourage careerism and materialism at the expense of contemplation…
…what these institutions mean by leadership is nothing more than getting to the top. Making partner at a major law firm or becoming a chief executive, climbing the greasy pole of whatever hierarchy you decide to attach yourself to.
…And they perpetuate the division between haves- and have-nots, both financial and cultural, that increasingly characterizes American society—“creating an elite that is isolated from the society that it’s supposed to lead,” a class of accomplished test-takers who aren’t even capable, to use a past Deresiewicz example, of having a conversation with a plumber.
On the other hand: the entire unexamined premise of Deresiewicz’s piece is that colleges should teach students “how to think” and “stand outside the world for a few years,” which could itself be easily seen as an elitist concept held only by those who have the luxury of being ignorant to the practical advantages of vocational education. In any case, read the piece here and draw your own conclusions.