article, âDonât Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,â an inflammatory critique of the Ivy League, went viral this summer and sparked national debate about the nationâs top schools and the culture they create.
Princeton students had a chance to fire back at Deresiewicz, who came to Whig Hall Sept. 25 after visiting several other Ivy League schools to promote his book,
The book, which expands on the article, argues that elite universities train students to become âexcellent sheepâ â individuals who excel at completing tasks for their own sake, at the expense of self-discovery and direction.
After a talk by Deresiewicz, who attended Columbia and taught at Yale for a decade, students criticized the authorâs proposals for reforming the college admission process, which include reducing applications to timed essays and evaluating applicants solely by their GPA.
When one student argued that removing extracurricular activities from applications would hurt âwell-roundedâ applicants, Deresiewicz admitted that reforming the admission process is not simple, but a small step in the process of rebuilding public higher education.
Students also accused Deresiewicz of ignoring the practical and financial aspects of college and their job choices. âI had more trouble finding a job as a car mechanic in Boston than I did with job offers from consulting firms and from law firms,â said Mikhael Smits â18. âWho am I to say, âNo, Iâm going to do what I want?â â Other students voiced their agreement with Smits, but Deresiewicz held firm.
âThe world might need you to do something other than go to Wall Street and play computer games with peopleâs money,â he said, drawing applause. âIâm not concerned about the choice; Iâm concerned about how the choice is made.â
At a meeting with several hundred alumni in Philadelphia two days earlier, President Eisgruber â83 had said he â
â with Deresiewicz. But some students voiced support for his critique.
Jeremy Cohen â16 said recognized behaviors in Deresiewiczâs article that were manifested in his own life, and said he agreed wholeheartedly with the author. Problems in higher education are institutional, Cohen said, making them more difficult to fix. âI donât think there are any individuals in the administration of Princeton or other schools who believe the college-application process is a good thing,â he said. âAll the individuals implicated here are good people with good motives, but the institution that exists is not ideal.â
Cameron Langford â15 took a more nuanced approach. In a Sept. 29 column for
The Daily Princetonian
, Langford wrote that Deresiewiczâs observations about âthe success-driven culture of Ivy League job recruitingâ are accurate, and that she is applying for consulting jobs herself.
But she said she disagrees with Deresiewiczâs argument that elite schools are failing when it comes to studentsâ âquestions of purpose.â Princeton may have helped her find direction in spite of its success-oriented culture, Langford wrote, by fostering intellectual curiosity and the community to support it.