The disadvantages of an elite education

An article from last summer which I only recently read: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education, by a retired Yale prof. He speaks eloquently about the process I have always merely referred to as “higher edumacation.” (Toward the end of the article, he also touches on some of the social media-related issues we have recently been discussing here on the “Twittermania” thread.)

Whatever your opinion of his points about higher education, anti-intellectualism, and the uses of solitude, you will probably agree: this article sure explains George W. Bush.

5 Replies to “The disadvantages of an elite education”

  1. Good article, thanks for the link. Wish I had known this before I went to Cornell looking to get a graduate degree to become more of an intellectual, not to change my class position and/or become an elite “leader.” Smart working-class kids ought to get special counseling– as even if they get in, they are never going to fit in, and the entitlement will never be for them…

  2. That’s a 98% good article…

    It is definitely the specialists and abstrations that are killing us right now.

    I’m not sure I agree with what he thinks being an “intellectual” truly means….to me, it’s a pejorative in all cases (unless of course you redefine the term to suit your purposes).

  3. Wow, this guy never interviewed me or any of my friends. I went to an Ivy school, got kicked out for majoring in wine, women and song, came back after a year and finally graduated.

    work in a field where it is my job to relate to working class (and the jobless poor) and to do so for peanuts. I have done it for fifteen years.

    I am a walking refutation of that article. Exception that proves the rule or is he full of horse manure? I think the latter–’cause I know a lot of folks just like myself.

    Yale, what a joke. Takes a Penn man to sort this out!

  4. Or maybe Penn’s just not elite enough. :-)

    Josh, it would appear that “intellectual” as a term has been distorted and disfavored in much the same way as “liberal”?

    Our society is moving away from specialization. I hate to bring up “Gone with the Wind” because it’s such a racist old movie, but I keep remembering the scene where Scarlett went back to Tara and told everyone they had to do everything, including field work. Suellen didn’t want to get hands dirty and the butler (former slave) was confused – “But we’re house workers!” And then of course Scarlett had to re-brand herself with those green velvet drapes. Now I have an image of Carol Burnett with the drape rods stuck in her dress so I’ll stop before this analogy gets worse.

    But anyhow, do you really think there are “green careers” out there for for every kid in college today? There is a great collapsing and telescoping of the professional job market going on; kids who are not Swiss army knives are going to be in trouble. But that’s part of what a humanities education was about – making you a better Swiss army knife.

    I did not go to Ivy League, but I think I saw the “rules don’t apply to us” attitude described on display when I was a freshman at Newhouse. That was the year they decided to require incoming students to pass a grammar/spelling/punctuation test (3 strikes and you’re out). Sam Kennedy, chair of newspaper program at the time, was fed up with students who couldn’t spell. Apparently Newhouse admits were supposed to be far, far above this sort of testing, so some parents and alums made a fuss. (I have no idea if they still require the test.)

    I liked this article because it offers a different and more realistic and skeptical view of the college experience. There are so many assumptions of college as being a “net benefit” but that’s only because our society is set up totally for it now. No one ever questions it. I enjoyed high school a lot, found it enlightening and a good time… but college was just a blank for me, it didn’t give me anything I needed in my life at the time, and it’s only now that I’m older that I understand just how limited my options really were because of my family’s economic situation, and how little guidance was available to me (especially, Robinia, as a working class kid). I hope today’s kids are not going to be sitting around 20 years later asking questions they weren’t allowed to ask as 18-21 year olds.

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