Sunday, June 26, 2011

An Elite Education

This article by William Deresiewicz is so thorough and consistent with my own experience that to quote a couple of high points does not do it justice. Nevertheless, here are some blurbs:

"Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely—indeed increasingly—homogeneous."

"I learned to give that little nod of understanding, that slightly sympathetic “Oh,” when people told me they went to a less prestigious college. (If I’d gone to Harvard, I would have learned to say “in Boston” when I was asked where I went to school—the Cambridge version of noblesse oblige.) I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to elite colleges, often precisely for reasons of class. I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to college at all."

"I began comparing my experience, and even more, my students’ experience, with the experience of a friend of mine who went to Cleveland State. There are due dates and attendance requirements at places like Yale, but no one takes them very seriously."

And now the most perceptive. I've often wondered if I am the only one who noticed this.

"Being an intellectual begins with thinking your way outside of your assumptions and the system that enforces them. But students who get into elite schools are precisely the ones who have best learned to work within the system, so it’s almost impossible for them to see outside it, to see that it’s even there. Long before they got to college, they turned themselves into world-class hoop-jumpers and teacher-pleasers, getting A’s in every class no matter how boring they found the teacher or how pointless the subject, racking up eight or 10 extracurricular activities no matter what else they wanted to do with their time. "

This passage reminds of the opportunistic Tiger Mom (what ever happened to her?), the self-professed non thinker. I also reminds me of not all but so many people I see entering law teaching. Many are poorly educated in any sense that allows them to think or talk about ideas.

1 comment:

Trent said...

As a mature aged student who has just undertaken a law degree here in Australia I am constantly amazed at the "tow the line thinking" that is displayed by my fellow students.
At our "O week" induction they were all lauded as “the best of the best” the one who “went the extra metre (yard)” to get to where they were today. But these students are all thinking for the party, towing the party line! I have not heard one remark, comment; retort from any of them, that questions the system may have some flaws. But why would they question the system? It is by playing the system that they are where they are today.
So their parents have become stable enough to provide them with a solid foundation for a future education, ensuring they achieve the “right” marks to gain them entry to the “right” university, so they can get the “right” degree. I have asked some of them “why are they doing law”, their response “ my mark was high enough”. Do these people have no soul? I am not suggesting that all of us can find our true calling and happiness in our careers. But it appears at least at this point in time that many are willing to forgo that shot of happiness by ensuring they their class has the hand on the wheel. Some professions still belong to the white middle upper class.