Cover image for Excellent sheep the miseducation of the American elite & the way to a meaningful life
Title:
Excellent sheep the miseducation of the American elite & the way to a meaningful life
Author:
Deresiewicz, William, 1964-
Personal Author:
Edition:
Unabridged.
Publication Information:
[Old Saybrook, Ct.] : Tantor Media, Inc., [2014]

â„—2014
Physical Description:
7 audio discs (8.5 hrs.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
Summary:
A sharp look at the high-pressure conveyor belt that begins with parents and counselors who demand perfect grades and culminates in the skewed applications Deresiewicz saw firsthand as a member of Yale's admissions committee. As schools shift focus from the humanities to 'practical' subjects like economics and computer science, students are losing the ability to think in innovative ways.
General Note:
Title from container.

Compact discs.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
General adult.
Genre:
Added Author:
Added Corporate Author:
ISBN:
9781494502904

9781494532901
Format :
Audiobook on CD

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library LA227.4 .D74 2014C Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

As a professor at Yale, William Deresiewicz saw something that troubled him deeply. His students, some of the nation's brightest minds, were adrift when it came to the big questions: how to think critically and creatively, and how to find a sense of purpose. Excellent Sheep takes a sharp look at the high-pressure conveyor belt that begins with parents and counselors who demand perfect grades and culminates in the skewed applications Deresiewicz saw firsthand as a member of Yale's admissions committee. As schools shift focus from the humanities to "practical" subjects like economics and computer science, students are losing the ability to think in innovative ways. Deresiewicz explains how college should be a time for self-discovery, when students can establish their own values and measures of success, so they can forge their own path. He addresses parents, students, educators, and anyone who's interested in the direction of American society, featuring quotes from real students and graduates he has corresponded with over the years, candidly exposing where the system is broken and clearly presenting solutions.


Author Notes

William Deresiewicz was an associate professor of English at Yale University from 1998 to 2008. He is a contributing writer for The Nation and a contributing editor for The New Republic and The American Scholar. His work has also appeared in several publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He has won the Hiett Prize in the Humanities and the Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. He is the author of several books including A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter and Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* It might surprise the countless students competing for admission to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford that they could be fighting for a dubious prize. But in this probing indictment, a former Yale professor accuses America's top universities of turning young people into tunnel-visioned careerists, adept at padding their resumes and filling their bank accounts but unprepared to confront life's most important questions. Craven conformity, not free-spirited independence, is what Deresiewicz sees students learning in a campus world populated by hyperspecialized professors who pursue arcane research agendas and leave the teaching of undergraduates to adjuncts and TAs. The time has come, Deresiewicz asserts, for college professors and administrators to make students their first priority by giving them a challenging liberal-arts education. Grounded in the humanities, such an education would give students real intellectual and imaginative breadth, not just a professional credential. Besides pressing for this curricular and pedagogical realignment, Deresiewicz calls for radical reform of admissions policies, so reversing the trends that make the university an enforcer of caste hierarchies. Deresiewicz's controversial full agenda indeed means an end to rule by meritocracy and a beginning of fairness for the working class. An urgent summons to a long-overdue debate over what universities do and how they do it.--Christensen, Bryce Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

The kids are all wrong-especially the superachievers at the nation's top universities-according to this stinging indictment of American higher education. Culture critic Deresiewicz (A Jane Austen Education) expands his notorious American Scholar essay into a jeremiad against elite colleges, the Ivy League and, in particular, Yale, where he taught English. Students, he argues, are "smart and talented and driven... but also anxious, timid, and lost"; narcissistic helicopter parents-Tiger-Mom Amy Chua gets lambasted-pressure them to trade fulfillment for money and status. According to the author, colleges with indifferent teaching and incoherent curricula offer no guidance on intellectual development or character formation; the whole system reinforces a class hierarchy that "equates virtue, dignity, and happiness with material success." Entwined with his j'accuse is an impassioned, idealistic plea to reclaim the undergraduate years as a journey of self-discovery guided by engaged professors who challenge students to think for themselves instead of following the flock to Wall Street. Deresiewicz's critique of America's most celebrated schools as temples of mercenary mediocrity is lucid, sharp-edged, and searching, and if he sometimes too easily dismisses the practical expectations surrounding ruinously expensive degrees, he poses vital questions about what college teaches-and why. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary Associates. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

"They've learned to be students," writes Deresiewicz (What the Ivy League Won't Teach You) of contemporary American undergraduates, "not to use their minds." The difference between those distinctions is the focus of this crabby book, which also provides bitter indictments of higher educational institutions and the students attending them. The result is repetitive and interminable. A typical complaint is that few of his students "saw college as part of a larger project of intellectual discovery and development, one that they directed by themselves and for themselves." A pedagog lecturing students about their inability to learn is pompous, but this is especially insulting as it is intended for an audience of hardworking students and parents paying for college. Mel Foster's even-toned delivery ameliorates the discouraging words, but the discouragement is endless. VERDICT Credit Deresiewicz for calling it like it is; college "these days" is a system concerned with class, not necessarily education. However, criticizing higher education because it no longer conforms to an anachronistic ideal of what "liberal arts" means is a willfully facile argument.-Douglas C. Lord, New Britain P.L., CT (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Excellent Sheep Introduction This book, in many ways, is a letter to my twenty-year-old self. It talks about the kinds of things I wish that someone had encouraged me to think about when I was going to college--such as what the point of college might be in the first place. I was like so many kids today (and so many kids back then). I went off to college like a sleepwalker, like a zombie. College was a blank. College was the "next thing." You went to college, you studied something, and afterward you went on to the next next thing, most probably some kind of graduate school. Up ahead were vaguely understood objectives: status, wealth, getting to the top--in a word, "success." As for where you went to school, that was all about bragging rights, so of course you chose the most prestigious place that let you in. What it meant to actually get an education, and why you might want one--how it could help you acquire a self, or develop an independent mind, or find your way in the world--all this was off the table. Like kids today, I was processed through a system everyone around me simply took for granted. I started college in 1981. The system, then, was in its early days, but it was already, unmistakably, a system, a set of tightly interlocking parts. When I speak in this book 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, test-prep courses and enrichment programs; 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 BA; 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. What that system does to kids and how they can escape from it, what it does to our society and how we can dismantle it--those are the subjects of this book. I was teaching a class at Yale on the literature of friendship. One day we got around to talking about the importance of being alone. The ability to engage in introspection, I suggested, is the essential precondition for living the life of the mind, and the essential precondition for introspection is solitude. My students took this in for a second--introspection, solitude, the life of the mind, things they probably had not been asked to think about before--then one of them said, with a dawning sense of self-awareness, "So are you saying that we're all just, like, really excellent sheep?" All? Surely not. But after twenty-four years in the Ivy League--college at Columbia; a PhD at the same institution, including five years as a graduate instructor; and ten years, altogether, on the faculty at Yale--that was more or less how I had come to feel about it. The system manufactures students 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. In 2008, on my way out the door, I published an essay that sketched out a few of these criticisms. Titled "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education," the article appeared in the American Scholar, a small literary quarterly. At best, I thought, it might get a few thousand readers. Instead, it started to go viral almost from the moment it came out. Within a few weeks, the piece had been viewed a hundred thousand times (with many times that number in the months and years to come). Apparently I'd touched a nerve. These were not just the grumblings of an ex-professor. As it turned out from the many emails I began to get, the vast majority from current students and recent graduates, I had evoked a widespread discontent among today's young high achievers--a sense that the system was cheating them out of a meaningful education, instilling them with values they rejected but couldn't somehow get beyond, and failing to equip them to construct their futures. Since then I have spoken with students on campuses across the country, corresponded with many others, answered these young people's questions and asked my own, and heard and read their stories. It has been an education in itself, and this book is a reflection of that ongoing dialogue. Where possible, I've used their words to help me talk about the issues we've discussed, but every page has been informed by my sense of what these kinds of students need and want to think about. A lot of books get published about higher education, but none, as far as I can tell, are speaking to students themselves--still less, listening to them. I begin the book by discussing the system itself--one that, to put it in a nutshell, forces you to choose between learning and success. Education is the way that a society articulates its values: the way that it transmits its values. While I'm often critical of the sort of kids who populate selective schools, my real critique is aimed at the adults who've made them who they are--that is to say, at the rest of us. Part 2 begins to explain what students can do, as individuals, to rescue themselves from the system: what college should be for, how to find a different kind of path in life, what it means to be a genuine leader. Part 3 extends the argument, talking in detail about the purpose of a liberal arts education, the value of the humanities, and the need for dedicated teachers and small classrooms. My aim is not to tell young people where to go to school so much as why. Part 4 returns to the larger social question. The system is charged with producing our leadership class, the so-called meritocracy--the people who run our institutions, governments, and corporations. So how has that been going? Not, it's clear by now, too well. What we're doing to our kids we're ultimately doing to ourselves. The time has long since passed, I argue, to rethink, reform, and reverse the entire project of elite education. A word on what I mean when I speak of the elite. I don't intend the term as it is often now deployed, as a slur against liberals, intellectuals, or anyone who disagrees with Bill O'Reilly, but simply as a name for those who occupy the upper echelons of our society: conservatives as well as liberals, businesspeople as well as professionals, the upper and the upper middle classes both--the managers, the winners, the whole cohort of people who went to selective colleges and are running society for their own exclusive benefit. This book is also, implicitly, a portrait of that class, whose time to leave the stage of history has now so evidently come. Excerpted from Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Google Preview