Higher Ed. In the News – A Critique on Ivy League & the Rise of Small Liberal Arts


William Deresiewicz, a Columbia graduate and former Yale professor recently wrote a thought provoking piece for The New Republic titled “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League.” His point is that elite universities generate students or “zombies” that are not only entitled, but also lack purpose.

His solution? The reformation of the admissions process and smaller liberal arts schools.

One of the points he makes against Ivy League schools is that the education system is set up to “mitigate the class system.” He advocates for discarding preferences for legacies and athletes, weighting SAT scores to account for socioeconomic factors, and placing more value on service-jobs taken by lower-income students during high school, but never by high achievers.  He goes on to suggest, “If schools are going to train a better class of leaders than the ones we have today, they’re going to have to ask themselves what kinds of qualities they need to promote. Selecting students by GPA or the number of extracurriculars more often benefits the faithful drudge than the original mind.”

He also makes the point that the most important aspect of college is that it teaches students how to think, develop of a sense of self, and determine a purpose or direction and the best place to do so is at smaller to mid sized liberal arts colleges. These schools have retained their loyalty and commitment to educational values.

“If there is anywhere that college is still college – anywhere that teaching and the humanities are still accorded pride of place – it is the liberal arts college. Such places are small, which is not for everyone, and they’re often fairly isolated, which is also not for everyone.”

So how does Deresiewicz recommend avoiding college grads becoming entitled jerks? Go to a smaller school, or a public university, wait some tables, work at a daycare. You don’t have to go to Guatemala to do community service; you can do just as much good in Milwaukee or Arkansas. Most importantly, fully immerse yourself in any opportunity that arises and get your hands dirty.

You go Deresiewicz! Small liberal arts colleges are finally getting the rep they deserve.  Check out the article on New Republic and let us know your thoughts.

Here’s a clip of Deresiewicz discussing his new book, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.