In short: I agree. But only with the headline. The rest of the article, not so much.
In the New Republic, William Deresiewicz writes “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League.”
Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.
When I speak of elite education, I mean prestigious institutions like Harvard or Stanford or Williams as well as the larger universe of second-tier selective schools, but I also mean everything that leads up to and away from them—the private and affluent public high schools; the ever-growing industry of tutors and consultants and test-prep courses; the admissions process itself, squatting like a dragon at the entrance to adulthood; the brand-name graduate schools and employment opportunities that come after the B.A.; and the parents and communities, largely upper-middle class, who push their children into the maw of this machine. In short, our entire system of elite education.
So far so good. But it’s below he gets into murky waters and never quite gets out. Read the whole thing. It’s worth reading just to help you think about the issues from the progressive point of view. He concludes:
I used to think that we needed to create a world where every child had an equal chance to get to the Ivy League. I’ve come to see that what we really need is to create one where you don’t have to go to the Ivy League, or any private college, to get a first-rate education.
High-quality public education, financed with public money, for the benefit of all: the exact commitment that drove the growth of public higher education in the postwar years. Everybody gets an equal chance to go as far as their hard work and talent will take them—you know, the American dream. Everyone who wants it gets to have the kind of mind-expanding, soul-enriching experience that a liberal arts education provides. We recognize that free, quality K–12 education is a right of citizenship. We also need to recognize—as we once did and as many countries still do—that the same is true of higher education. We have tried aristocracy. We have tried meritocracy. Now it’s time to try democracy.
Deresiewicz gets it partly right. He claims the Ivy League and other ultra-competitive higher education is bad for students because it perpetuates a pre-existing class system. Though we conservatives are not for class systems, as they are coercive examples of government power in action, we believe that progressives go about it the wrong way. Progressives identify people as upper class who luck into a million dollar payday or sell a house that has wildly inflated in value one year, ignoring the fact that they’re just like Jerry down the block the next year. And if progressives turn one year of someone’s life into a definition of that person as a class enemy, then clearly they have defined class into irrelevance. After all, if class is so flexible it changes year to year then it’s not a permanent class at all, and all attempts to counter it are misguided and stupid.
Furthermore, it was not until public schooling was created in the US that there was anything like a class system in this country. George Washington became the richest man in the colonies after starting at age 14 as a professional land surveyor, buying good property as he measured it, and being smart. He only went to ONE YEAR of formal schooling. Ever. In. His. Life. His childhood was spent hunting, fishing, reading good books when the weather was bad, talking with his older and wiser neighbors, and working on the land. In fact, the whole purpose of public schooling, which sprang from India and Prussia, both highly caste bound societies, was to keep the lower classes in their place and allow the upper classes to slip out of public school bondage in the nurturing classrooms of their private schools. Today’s public schools, drafted by the same architects who design prisons and staffed by insufferable modern day pedants, are even more decidedly on the side of those who see intelligence and creativity as protruding nails to be hammered flat.
We conservatives see “class” differently. Those who have close personal and familial connections to political powers are in the upper class. In the very old days (not so long ago in some parts of the world), the king and his court were the upper class. That expanded to connected merchants with the wide use of a king’s power to grant monopolies to nobles and favored merchants, allowing him to extort large loans and tax assessments from those nobles and merchants in order to fund his wars. In these days, there’s a crony capitalist system that works by means of politically connected lobbying in the corridors of the federal government. With the prevalence of global and US crony capitalism, those with connections to power can receive government contracts, preferences in tax treatment and trademark protection, and other advantages that amount to a government grant of monopoly rivaling anything Louis XIV handed out back in old France. Maintaining the crony capitalist system is what the Ivy League does. That is its “raison d’etre.” It connects politically ambitious students with wildly talented students and students with access to great family wealth, enabling politicians and their college friends to become wealthy and those with wealth to ensure their children keep it, setting the stage for the next generation of generous donors and government grants to the Ivy League.
The problem with the Ivy League is not that it perpetuates the real class system of government power, though that is bad enough. The real problem is that it is a lousy bargain. Ivy League schools (and increasingly all US schools) teach total crap “studies” courses, most based on Marxist pseudo-science instead of fact and science, force individuality crushing speech codes and mandatory awareness training on the students, privilege perversion over normality, push pre-sexual-contact contracts with one hand to buffer the hookup culture they promote with the other hand, and actively censor Christian and conservative activity to produce a rabidly progressive monoculture where passivity and conformity are rewarded and independent thought castigated. They also push a drinking to get drunk culture and the general impression that every university is an all-inclusive resort akin to Sandals Harvard campus. How can students who learn to excel in this soul-crushing, tempting, distractingly perverse environment be ready to think for themselves? Wouldn’t it be a better bargain to send your 18 year old to Sandals for several two week vacations with instructions to network with all the rich and powerful and driven people there while getting drunk and having promiscuous sex, then to get a job using those social contacts? At least you won’t have anyone at Sandals trying to convince your child that you are evil for having the money to spend to send them there.
The Ivy League have been going about creating leaders the wrong way. Leaders are created by leading, not by kowtowing to pedantic bullies. And that’s what’s wrong with the Ivy League and the rest of the education establishment. They are bullies and they teach too much crap. Common Core will only make things worse.
The best thing you can do for your kids is homeschool them while you can. When it comes to college, I agree with Deresiewicz. Don’t send them to the Ivy League.
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An earlier version of this response was previously published at Unified Patriots as Response to “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League”