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Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life

Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life

A groundbreaking manifesto for people searching for the kind of insight on leading, thinking, and living that elite schools should be—but aren’t—providing.

As a professor at Yale, Bill 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.

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 and computer science, students are losing the ability to think in innovative ways. Deresiewicz explains how college should be a time for self-discovery, when students can establish their own values and measures of success, so they ca

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What customers say about Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life?

  1. 10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A Cry of Conscience, August 19, 2014
    By 
    David Keppel (Bloomington, IN United States) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    One of my friends, as a Harvard undergraduate, was the subject of a survey. The question was simply: “What’s your major?” His answer: “Pre-Wealth.”

    William Deresiewicz passionately believes that a true education should be something else: a habit of questioning, a constant search to understand the universe, the world, the society we live in and with that understanding to work for justice. He’s asking for moral imagination, and he’s shocked at its lack in universities that are stifled by the money they cost, the donations they chase, and the student debt that sends students into “practical” (lucrative but spirit-deadening) careers.

    In truth, of course, elite universities are not entirely devoid of the values he champions, nor would he claim that. Some elite schools such as the Phillips Exeter Academy teach by the Socratic method; Oxford tutorials are meant to reward originality (though too often they and the Oxford Finals system reward mere fluency). But that doesn’t at all detract from the validity of Deresiewicz’s case, especially since it is written as advice to students.

    The larger failure, I think, is a failure of the universities to foster an understanding of 21st century reality as a never-ending, uncertain, open philosophical inquiry. There are those, inside and outside, elite education engaged in that, from the Resilience Alliance to Stuart Kauffman to Frans de Waal to a superb journalist such as Elizabeth Kolbert, but it ought to be the heart and mind of a liberal education. For that to happen, universities will not only have to drop money-obsessed “practicality”; they’ll also have to tear down some of the disciplinary walls assiduously maintained by doctoral and professorial guilds. It can’t happen too soon. Meanwhile, we owe thanks to a few outliers, such as College of the Atlantic, that are blazing the trails.

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  2. 2.0 out of 5 stars
    repetitive, August 20, 2014
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    The author writes very well, and his arguments are compelling. The problem for me was that he continued to pound away on the same themes. After making a point twice, at around the middle point of the book, it started to feel like he was stretching his material out to fill the book.

    It also struck me that the author backed up many of his points with quotes and comments from “golden dozen” schools. Lending credence by quoting this Harvard scholar and that Stanford professor belies his assertion that elite schools don’t deserve the status we give to them.

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  3. 0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Best quote: ‘, August 20, 2014
    By 

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    Best quote:

    ‘…
    I hate all my activities, I hate all my classes, I hated everything I did in high school, I expect to hate my job, and this is just how it’s going to be for the rest of my life.
    …’

    This is what runs corporate America.

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