Do Ivy League schools turn kids into zombies? Are they places where real education is difficult and true diversity is absent? So argues William Deresiewicz in this fascinating essay (based on his upcoming book). I resonate with elements of what he says. Especially about the admissions arms race. We didn’t have the resources to put our kids in dozens of extra-curricular activities and they weren’t “leaders” (as arbitrarily defined). Fortunately, they’ve done well in other schools. One in a sort of Ivy (U of Chicago), one in a high quality liberal arts school (St. Olaf), one in a public university (University of Maryland), and one in a smaller religious institution.
I found this paragraph somewhat surprising (to see, not because I think it is untrue):
Religious colleges—even obscure, regional schools that no one has ever heard of on the coasts—often do a much better job in that respect. What an indictment of the Ivy League and its peers: that colleges four levels down on the academic totem pole, enrolling students whose SAT scores are hundreds of points lower than theirs, deliver a better education, in the highest sense of the word.
Here’s another good one:
Instead of service, how about service work? That’ll really give you insight into other people. How about waiting tables so that you can see how hard it is, physically and mentally? You really aren’t as smart as everyone has been telling you; you’re only smarter in a certain way. There are smart people who do not go to a prestigious college, or to any college—often precisely for reasons of class. There are smart people who are not “smart.”
Yes, yes, and yes. Read it all.