A groundbreaking manifesto about what our nation’s top schools should be—but aren’t—providing: “The ex-Yale professor effectively skewers elite colleges, their brainy but soulless students (those ‘sheep’), pushy parents, and admissions mayhem” (People).
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. Now he argues that elite colleges are turning out conformists without a compass.
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, students are losing the ability to think independently. It is essential, says Deresiewicz, that college be a time for self-discovery, when students can establish their own values and measures of success in order to forge their own paths. He features quotes from real students and graduates he has corresponded with over the years, candidly exposing where the system is broken and offering clear solutions on how to fix it.
“Excellent Sheep is likely to make…a lasting mark….He takes aim at just about the entirety of upper-middle-class life in America….Mr. Deresiewicz’s book is packed full of what he wants more of in American life: passionate weirdness” (The New York Times).
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
iPhone version p 383 cuts off
Great book so far but please fix glitch in iPhone version p 383. Text cuts off.
Book about writing, not just college
This book may just as well be about writing, if you pay attention beyond the what to the how. Every page has a quotable phrase or two. Arguments are tight and convincing.
But it's mainly about the politics of elite educational institutions in the US.