Monday, November 29, 2010

The Disadvantage of An Elite Education

I love the ideas that are shared in the Klingbrief -- a newsletter about education related materials and ideas that is sent once a month from the Klingenstein Center -- a branch of the Teacher's College of Columbia University that trains people to work as leaders of independent schools.  I especially appreciated that they -- members of an elite institution -- sent the link to this essay.  After watching The Social Network I definitely do not have Harvard aspirations for my daughters, but it is hard to know what to want for them... the chance for creativity, for connectedness, and for responsible civic participation seem like core values for me, and I hope they will become part of the college experience before too long.

Are We Doing What We Say We Do? : The Disadvantages of an Elite Education, by William Deresiewicz

Doing a double take at the title is just the beginning of asking yourself to think deeply and differently while reading this opinion piece by William Deresiewicz for The American Scholar, the magazine of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. The author takes up an argument that looks at both advantages and disadvantages of schooling in an elite environment. And he should know... his own Ivy League education is one of the many warrants he carefully delineates in defense of his hypothesis: that an elite education limits, narrows, deceives, and misguides those who are inside the gates at exclusive institutions. Examined in light of its impact on society, economics, humanistic understanding, inclusion, and thinking, the place of privilege comes up short for Deresiewicz. The article compels us to take a look at the student who is packing in AP courses, filling a resume, and becoming "the kid whom everyone wants at their college but no one wants in their classroom." The author asks if we are helping students ask the big questions and reach beyond analytic thinking skills to work hard at what they believe in and to love learning in its broadest and most humane definition.

Elizabeth Morley, Institute of Child Study, Toronto, Canada
The American Scholar, Summer 2008