Archive for October, 2008

The “entitled mediocrity” of an elite education

William Deresiewicz, an English professor at Yale University from 1998 to 2008, writes a scathing and provocative disquisition about “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education” in the Summer 2008 issue of The American Scholar. This is a must-read for anyone concerned about the fact that “our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers.”


There is nothing wrong with taking pride in one’s intellect or knowledge. There is something wrong with the smugness and self-congratulation that elite schools connive at from the moment the fat envelopes come in the mail. From orientation to graduation, the message is implicit in every tone of voice and tilt of the head, every old-school tradition, every article in the student paper, every speech from the dean. The message is: You have arrived. Welcome to the club. And the corollary is equally clear: You deserve everything your presence here is going to enable you to get. When people say that students at elite schools have a strong sense of entitlement, they mean that those students think they deserve more than other people because their SAT scores are higher.

One of the great errors of an elite education, then, is that it teaches you to think that measures of intelligence and academic achievement are measures of value in some moral or metaphysical sense. But they’re not. Graduates of elite schools are not more valuable than stupid people, or talentless people, or even lazy people. Their pain does not hurt more. Their souls do not weigh more. If I were religious, I would say, God does not love them more. The political implications should be clear. As John Ruskin told an older elite, grabbing what you can get isn’t any less wicked when you grab it with the power of your brains than with the power of your fists. “Work must always be,” Ruskin says, “and captains of work must always be….[But] there is a wide difference between being captains…of work, and taking the profits of it.”

[Entire article can be found here.

Play, think…
J. R. Atwood

Hat tip: MB


October 24, 2008 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Education and the Next President

Tuesday, October 21, 7 to 9pm EST/4 to 6 pm PST: Be sure to tune-in to the webcast of a live debate between Linda Darling-Hammond, education adviser to Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, and Lisa Graham Keegan, education adviser to Republican nominee John McCain. The debate, titled “Education and the Next President,” takes place at Teachers College, Columbia University and is being exclusively Webcast by

Read Education Week‘s coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign to learn more about where the two candidates and their running mates stand on a wide variety of education issues. Also, read the blog, Campaign K-12, for more analysis of the candidates’ views.


Those interested in the history, philosophy, and ideas of education might want to pick-up the current edition of Lapham’s Quarterly; the theme of the Fall 2008 publication is “Ways of Learning” and includes probing, provocative essays by Thomas Jefferson and Cardinal John Henry Newman to Michel Foucault and Dave Eggers.


On a different note…

*** “Top 5 Grisliest Sporting Injuries” at Peak Performance.

*** As Gretchen Reynolds of the NYT summarizes in this week’s e-issue of Play magazine, “llegal doping isn’t the only drug-related quandary in sports… The world’s best soccer players downed a mix of legal prescription drugs and nutritional supplements before and during almost every match of the 2002 and 2006 World Cup competitions. Using data supplied by team physicians, researchers found that, on average, each player used about two drugs or supplements per match. Some players were taking as many as seven different legal substances at the same time.” Study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

*** “New exercise guidelines released Tuesday set a minimum sweat allotment for good health” [italics mine] at Associated Press.

*** The “style and sensibility” of New York City bicyclists from the New York Times.

Play, think…
J. R. Atwood

October 11, 2008 at 9:40 am Leave a comment

Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

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