Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
In association with the The Adler-Aquinas Institute and Aquinas School of Leadership
A Founding Member of the Alliance for Liberal Learning

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

William Deresiewicz in The American Scholar, Summer 2008
The advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable. You learn to think, at least in certain ways, and you make the contacts needed to launch yourself into a life rich in all of society’s most cherished rewards. To consider that while some opportunities are being created, others are being cancelled and that while some abilities are being developed, others are being crippled is, within this context, not only outrageous, but inconceivable.

(via Shark and Shepherd)


  1. What I found the most alarming about the image Deresiewicz paints of the Ivy League graduate was his sense of entitlement and the lack of personal responsibility, which his education has encouraged as part of the value system perpetuated at these elite institutions.

    The quote referenced reinforces the idea that once a part of "the club" it is inconceivable, to the graduate, that there may be opportunities and life experiences that might be of equal importance in reaching one's full potential as a human being. But this quote stops short of rendering a judgment on this attitude.

    Deresiewicz sees the Ivy League university curriculum devolving into an elite vocational training for the top leadership positions at home and abroad. If this is true, the inability of these future leaders to understand, relate to, or have any kind of a shared experience, with the rest of the world, coupled with the arrogance engendered by the sense of entitlement referenced above, leaves me little hope for the future that would be envisaged by these new power brokers.

    The closing paragraph I found to be the more relevant passage in summarizing the consequences of what the author posits throughout the remainder of the article.

    The world that produced John Kerry and George Bush is indeed giving us our next generation of leaders. The kid who’s loading up on AP courses junior year or editing three campus publications while double-majoring, the kid whom everyone wants at their college or law school but no one wants in their classroom, the kid who doesn’t have a minute to breathe, let alone think, will soon be running a corporation or an institution or a government. She will have many achievements but little experience, great success but no vision. The disadvantage of an elite education is that it’s given us the elite we have, and the elite we’re going to have.

    emphasis mine


    Three books by R. Buckminster Fuller have just been re-published with an introduction by his grandson Jamie Snyder: Operations Manual for Spaceship Earth, And It Came To Pass-Not To Stay, and Utopia or Oblivion.

    In Operations Manual for Spaceship Earth, Fuller outlines the origins of specialization and the unspoken intent of our universities.

    P.35 “…The Great Pirates realized that the only people who could contrive to replace them were the truly bright people.”


    And The Great Pirates said to their stooge kings: “When ever you hear of a bright person, enlist them. Have your historians teach them the ‘proper history’ and make them specialists. Tell them that if they don’t mind their own business, then it’s off with their heads.” (today, the “Off with their heads!” is replaced by inventions called Tenure and Pension.).

    P.41 “…This is the beginning of schools and colleges and the beginning of specialization.”

    So it’s by design that we have come to where we are now. Our universities have become factories to turn out wage and debt slaves, currying the favor of The Great Pirates. This is why the Great Books Program and all of Dr. Adler’s emphasis on growing self educating, responsible world citizens will always be stonewalled by established educational institutions. They were and are created and funded by The Great Pirates to groom the herd that they milk, bleed, and cull.


    The greatest invention is not the wheel, it is to create a slave that doesn’t know he is a slave.

    Happy holidays!