A Spectacular Sheep
Last week, an anonymous
sheep Bwogger attended Bill Deresiewicz’s lecture on campus. Deresiewicz, author of the widely-read “The Disadvantages of An Elite Education,” is well known for his anti-Ivy-League stance (or, rather, his anti-sheep stance), making his visit to Columbia especially intriguing. Below is an open letter from a self-proclaimed “spectacular sheep,” addressing many of Deresiewicz’s main points.
Dear Mr. Deresiewicz,
Alright, I have to admit it. You’ve got serious balls touring almost all eight schools of the Ivy League telling students that their nearly 60k education is ultimately not worth it. We worked exceptionally hard to get here, and while that may have taken exceptional “hoop jumping,” it also took exceptionally spectacular motivation and drive. Life is a series of hoops and to be “successful” one undoubtedly has to be original and decently intelligent, but they also must master a certain element of manipulation of the game or “hoop jumping.” I do not think your overall argument is unfounded; in fact, I agree with you completely, and probably more than most. However, I think your question is more one of how do we balance “succeeding” at this sick game of hopscotch while also holding on to the ideals that founded these Ivy League institutions in the first place: learning, not only how to learn, but also for the sake of learning itself.
I think the question of how to derive meaning from education and, by extension, life, is an important one, but perhaps one that is above both of us. I also am unsure whether this was what you intended to say in your talk at Columbia. But I am not here to chastise you; that would be neither my place nor intention. I am here to applaud you. The issue you are tackling is one that could be argued to be direly in need of address. I think your issue, as mine and everyone’s should be, is with the institutionalized, bureaucratic secondary educational system. We unquestionably should have the opportunity to attend prestigious schools that have strong humanities backgrounds and extensive exposure to many diverse fields. We should be encouraged to pursue the arts and music and philosophy to make us better thinkers, better inventors, better humanitarians, better lovers. We especially should be more globally oriented with today’s society, learning more languages, more history and more global politics and economics. We should be given more time to realize our niche while we find ourselves mentally, spiritually and emotionally. But how do we create an exceptional education system that provides for both those who want a well-rounded educational experience to shape their future careers and also for those who are passionate and dedicated to fields they are sure they want to pursue?
Mr. Deresiewicz, I implore you: go into politics. Fight for that change you and I and countless Ivy League students want to see. You are raising such prevalent and progressive questions. However, I think telling someone they’re drowning when they’ve already started swimming is somewhat counterintuitive and unproductive. Everyone should be forced to question their actions and motives; introspection is healthy and sometimes necessary even though at times it may be difficult or unwanted. All, and maybe especially Ivy League students should be reminded of their commitment to being spectacular well-rounded scholars and not just hoop jumpers, but they most definitely should not be shot down because of their accomplishment of making it here. I know you’ve received mixed reviews on your book and talks, but the negative feedback is a natural defense mechanism for the realization of Ivy League students – and sometimes their parents — that you are right. But that that would also entail our own inadequacy and inferior education, something we’ve vested serious time, effort, and money into.
Maybe that stark slap of reality is garnering the attention you were intending, and if that’s the case, well done. So ultimately, Mr. Deresiewicz, thank you. Thank you for raising the issue, and I hope you succeed in bringing about effective change. As for me, with all this in mind, I am going to set out to be a spectacular sheep; one that is wide-awake and making the most of my Ivy League education.
A Spectacular Sheep
woolly goodness via Shutterstock