Excellent Sheep

Just out on August 19: William Deresiewicz, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. The publisher's blurb:

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 can forge their own path. He addresses parents, students, educators, and anyone who's interested in the direction of American society, featuring quotes from real students and graduates he has corresponded with over the years, candidly exposing where the system is broken and clearly presenting solutions.

A summary by Deresiewicz: "Don't send your kid to the Ivy League: The nation's top colleges are turning our kids into zombies", The New Republic 7/21/2014; and "Your Criticism of My Ivy League Takedown Further Proves My Point", 8/16/2014.

Some reviews:

Anthony Grafton, "The Enclosure of the American Mind", NYT Sunday Book Review, 8/22/2014

Nathan Heller, "Poison Ivy: Are elite colleges bad for the soul?", The New Yorker, 9/1/2014

An earlier article by Deresiewicz:

"The Disadvantages of an Elite Education", The American Scholar, summer 2008

An interview with Deresiewicz:

Rebecca Schuman, "'My Most Offended Readers Are Ivy-Bound 18-Year-Olds'", Slate 8/18/2014

A contrary view by Steven Pinker, "The Trouble with Harvard: The Ivy League is broken and only standardized tests can fix it", The New Republic 9/4/2014.

A recent Op-Ed by David Brooks, "Becoming a real person", NYT 9/8/2014

Read the reviews and the 2008 article, and we'll discuss this in our meeting on 9/4.

The assignment (due Th 9/11): Deresiewicz writes from the perspective of the humanities, and seems somewhat hostile to business, engineering and even science. Frame both a positive and a negative version of his ideas as they apply to (your personal take on) the topic of this seminar, namely "research and innovation".

Create your assignment as a Google Doc named YourLastName_Sheep, and share it with markyliberman@gmail.com and utsav.schurmans@gmail.com