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Read a good book yesterday and wanted to pass it along.

Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite by William Deresiewicz

A former Yale professor, Bill Deresiewicz presents a look at how the top Ivy League colleges in America are producing students who go out into society without being able to conceive a critical thought. He also discusses how the current admissions process to top colleges has and is continuing to form a wide gulf between the haves and have-nots, how the enabling of parents is stunting their children's independence, and how this broken system is perpetuating a segregated class system within America.

It was a hard read for me as Dr. Deresiewicz criticizes the rise of specialization of professions, and the decrease in focus on the humanities within the current college model. I'm a specialized professor teaching in a professional degree program. It was hard to hear, but I think he has a good point. I teach students everyday that, I swear, don't have an original thought in their head.

By linxminx7
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With Common Core and the emphasis on STEAM, classrooms are moving more towards creativity and divergent thinking. I'm a curriculum coach so I'm seeing this K-12. Divergent thinking and problem-solving are components to training students to use their minds. I'm imagining this is threatening to many groups.

What does the training of students' minds consist of? How would I see divergent thinking and problem-solving being carried out, let's say, in a high school classroom? Can you give me an example?


Another true liberal who will soon be labeled as alt-white. For describing reality.

The lefters are no longer defenders of truth.

Jacar Level 8 Mar 9, 2019

I don't think it's just Ivy League schools or even just colleges.

predominantly the coasts.

@Jacar I teach at a small college in Nebraska, and I'm seeing aspects of this same mindset, so it's not just on the coasts. Our current president is on a recruitment mission. Her mindset fosters the message that our students are customers, and we're all here to feed them their Big Macs for four years until they get that degree. Don't worry about quality. It's all about increasing the numbers that are churning through the system. It's not just on the coasts, it's in every backyard.

@linxminx. . . I am sad to learn this wave of darkness is starting to inundate you.
Some of the imbecile scientists at MSU signed the oath-of-stupid letter condemning the CERN scientist for telling truth.
You are correct it is everywhere.


That is a book that I would love to read. Thank you for the up.
But with out even have read it yet, I can Attest to the premise.
When I was young, and mind you this was during the Carter administration, where higher learning was something that he really fought for, was fortunate to have been administered into a " Modern educational school", for lack of better words.
We were, rather than memorizing names and dates, were shown how to use and apply critical thinking.
For example, we would discuss a topic, and then sent out on our own to research our findings, and write a paper on what we had learned. and even then we would still discuss what we had learned, and came to a consensus.

Unfortunately, that ended in my Tenth grade. Going back to a public school for the two remaining years was much akin to torture.

I am simply dumbfounded on why that system never advanced farther than that.
But I have to say that the "critical thinking" aspect has never left me. I still apply it to just about every thing I do.

Such a tool is paramount to any other system I've ever seen.

I will be honest, and I say this with embarrassment, that I didn't really know how to critically think until I earned my doctorate degree, which was mid-life. My program had a professor everyone hated, but I have come to admire and respect, because he made us first to read and read and read, then he made us analyze, then we discussed the analysis, argued and debated, in order to open our minds to different ideas and new perspectives. His classes were grueling, but some of the most valuable of my education. He opened my mind to try to see things from several different perspective before arriving at an opinion of my own. He gave me independent thinking, and for that I will always be grateful.

I'm sad to say the system wants "group think," or "no-think" rather than independent thing. Which, I truly believe, is the antithesis of what our forefathers wanted for our country.


Monty Python portrayed the british version of them very well.

Aww, Monty Python!! They should be part of the classics and studied over and over. smile001.gif


Sounds mighty interesting, however I think that I need to read all the other 150 000 books that I already have at home, on my bookshelves, under the bed, in piles on the floor, in boxes in the garage, but if I ever finish them, I shall get to that one too.

Jolanta Level 8 Mar 9, 2019

Unfortunately true. Companies rather employ people who have experience rather then the ones with only university eduction. All those helicopter parents have so much to answer for.

Jolanta Level 8 Mar 9, 2019

It sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the book report, I mean review.

CS60 Level 7 Mar 9, 2019

My brother went to an Ivy league school, Dartmouth, for one year, then dropped out because it was too expensive, which was back in the 70s. Can only imagine what it costs now. He took away from it a very disillusioned view of how the offspring of the elite think and act as well as the lesson that for most of those members of elite families the main benefit of an Ivy league education as well as the top priority among their kind is the making of connections with others of their kind with which to get jobs in govt. or the private sector. It's just an expensive 4 year boarding school to party and network in.

I could have taken what you said straight out of this book. That's exactly what the author says too.

@linxminx Thank you. My brother and I unfortunately grew up in a small town in Iowa, but he's a pretty sharp guy, even if we don't get along. He eventually went to Syracuse U. for a masters in English Fiction writing and got to know the writer Jay Mc Innerney, who wrote Bright Lights, Big City, among other novels and short stories, then got a law degree from Columbia, another Ivy League school where he got to know Caroline Kennedy, among some other members of the elite families of America. He ended up as a fed magistrate in Puerto Rico and I have no doubt some of his Columbia connections led to that job.

As far as critical thinking, my brother already had those skills before he got to Dartmouth, but, at least back then, they did teach critical thinking there in most classes. He also had original thoughts, but he would probably agree that many of his classmates did not. They were trust fund babies for the most part and would do just fine in life without having any original thoughts because their families could provide them with unlimited extra chances if they failed at anything.


Thanks for the suggestion, sounds like an excellent book. But, of course my library did not have it but Amazon did for 6.98! On order.

BillF Level 7 Mar 9, 2019

"Ivy Leaguers" are much overrated. Theirs are "prestige degrees", and are in no way indicative of their intellect. I've had a few "Ivy League" profs., and wasn't too impressed by them.

This book talks about how Ivy League profs are not there to teach you, they are there to research. With that mentality, no wonder you were unimpressed.


Call me old fashioned, but I attended school through much of my adult life. No degrees, no certifications, no specialization, but only satisfaction in the things I've learned.

What of the monetization of education? Does Deresiewicz allude to that?

That's an excellent question...

@uuberdude The book discusses factors that played into what us professors call the "Walmartization" of higher education. Universities and colleges traded in the focus on learning for research after Sputnik. Our government wanting to win the space race so it released a bunch of funding for research. Universities snapped it up, and there is still today millions of dollars available for research...not so much with learning. In fact, government funding for learning has continued to decline for 20-25 years now, and is at an all time low.

The 1980's was pretty much the last decade for the baby boomers to attend college, so institutions were seeing a drop in enrollment, thus a drop in revenue. That's when administrators and policy makers began a significant push for student numbers, which resulted in a change in mentality of seeing students not as learners, but as customers. Here is a quote from the book...

"Higher education resembles any other business now. What pays is in; what doesn't is under the gun. Instruction is regarded as a drain on resources. "Efficiency" as in the transmission of knowledge, not the unscalable craft of teaching, has become the cardinal value. Professors are being replaced by adjuncts and other temporary, low-wage workers, the cost to educational quality be damned. Academic units (departments) are seen as "revenue centers,"-the ones that can't pull their weight-the liberal arts-are slated for downsizing or outright elimination. Continuous expansion is considered essential; new buildings, new research centers, new campuses."

He talks about how students are being lured based on "new" stuff like health clubs and fitness facilities, state-of-the-art dorms, there is a waterpark at a campus in Texas, and more. Basically, higher education is becoming the new mall for students to pay a lot of money to park themselves at for four years. Sad isn't it?

@linxminx It is nothing new, and I think it obvious. Is it just me who thinks MBAs are sub-human?

@linxminx Extremely sad where our higher education has gone. In fact, our whole education system is pretty sad.

@uuberdude I'm divorced from an MBA...I agree. smile001.gif


Well things may have moved on a little, in my day in the UK, (long time ago) if you had an original thought, the teachers would slap you.

They never liked it when a student raised a question for which they the teachers did not have an answer and would quickly gloss over it.


Added it to my reading list.


Wow I didn’t realize that nearly 50% of Americans went to Ivy League schools. ?


Sounds like a book I need to add to my library. Thank you for posting.


Ooo! Sounds very interesting and informative.
It is on my list now. Thank you!

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