The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

What are the disadvantages of an elite education?

Well, according to William Deresiewicz, it “makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you,” “inculcates a false sense of self-worth,” fosters a loathsome sense of entitlement, makes you afraid to take risks, and paradoxically breeds a perverse sort of anti-intellectualism. Oh yeah, it also doesn’t encourage solitude, and thus by extension, introspection.

Yep, I think that about covers it.

Do yourself a favor and read the whole essay.

(Hat tip: AMT.)

5 responses to “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

  1. Don’t you feel Dieresiewicz’ inability to speak with the plumber is mostly his personal hangup and not the result of his education? Both men have careers that require a skill set, and I would bet they’re both in the same tax bracket, or pretty close. Many academics aren’t born elite; cultural capital is something they choose to seek.

    I may have problems explaining what I do to someone without a grad degree (which is largely my fault), but I don’t have much of a problem talking about politics, food, sports, entertainment, and a host of other things.

    Point taken about the goals of the academy being out-of-joint, but one’s level of involvement with “the real world” is up to the individual.

    *the whole article strikes me as a false generalization–but this may be because I am not an ivy league product.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Luke. I too felt like Deresiewicz’s inability to talk with his plumber said more about him than it did about academe. (I mean, how clueless can you be?) Yet I felt like the larger point he was trying to make with this anecdote — that is, academe may inhibit your ability to socialize with anyone other than other academics — was a good one.

  3. Deresiewicz is mostly on target, but I agree — his claim that he can’t speak “Plumber” makes him look foolish, Frasier Crane-like. Then again, I’m a prof and the son of a tile man (floors and walls, not “art”), so I find it pretty easy to talk to plumbers.

    Lots of people outside academia do find professors, esp. English professors, automatically intimidating. That’s why I tend to say that I teach “literature” — it makes a difference.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Michael. John Derbyshire — of all people — has an interesting take on this whole “can’t talk to your plumber” problem:

  5. Pingback: God and Jerk at Yale « Submitted For Your Perusal


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