In my last post, I talked in Excellent Sheep, the Miseducation of the American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life, William Deresiewicz says “The purpose of life [has become] the accumulation of gold stars.” (Excellent Sheep, page 16) How does he relate that to education? How does it relate to college admissions?…
In my previous post, I talked about how William Deresiewicz starts out Excellent Sheep, the Miseducation of the American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life, with the assertion that mental health problems are on the rise among college students. Deresiewicz thinks the problem lies with education, especially elite universities.
Excellent Sheep talks a lot about how the desperate race to collect accolades for acceptance to an elite college affects students.
How it doesn’t stop after high school.
It continues on through college with the accumulation of multiple majors.
“The purpose of life becomes the accumulation of gold stars.” (Excellent Sheep, page 16)
You’ve read about them. Those super-start students who’re valedictorian, took 7 AP classes and tested out of 3 more AP credits, played in the school marching band, got accepted to Harvard, and started up their own non-profit on the side. All while making it look easy. But was it easy? William Deresiewicz starts out Excellent Sheep, the Miseducation of the American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life, by pointing out that the easy super-star student is a myth.
He goes into all sorts of statistics to show that while it appears students are effortlessly over-achieving, when you look at the numbers, what we have — according to one college President — is “an epidemic of depression among younger people.”
Of course, it’s just numbers, and just because it’s written in a book, doesn’t mean it’s true. But when what I’m reading matches my own experiences, I start to take notice….
If you’ve read my previous posts about a liberal arts education at a small liberal arts college, starting with Consider a Liberal Arts College, you probably didn’t expect the title of this post. But sometimes you consider an idea and then find it to not be the best fit. In my last post I covered some reservations I had about a liberal arts degree. But our biggest issue was that we were looking for a college with a computer science degree, a liberal arts college engineering degree. And yes, that turns out to be a contradiction.
I started down the path of considering a liberal arts education at a liberal arts college for our son, because I was questioning the value of chasing the grades of top 10%, and was worried about my kids’ chances of getting into a “competitive” (read “good” or “well-ranked”) college if they didn’t join that race. (This turned out not to be true. You can get into a good college without a high class ranking.) One alternative is to attend a small liberal arts college instead of a large research university….
It might seem like the easiest way to figure out which colleges and universities are good, or the best, is to just look at the college rankings.
The short answer is that is not a good idea.
In fact, it’s a TERRIBLE idea.
If you want to know why, read on….
Because I was worried about the chances of getting into college if you don’t chase the top 10% (a misconception that turned out not to be true) and I liked the idea of getting your undergraduate degree at a school that emphasized teaching undergraduates over graduate research, I found the idea of a liberal arts college appealing. So, what is the difference between college and university degrees? What are the differences between liberal arts colleges and research universities?…
It’s that time of year again. College application deadlines are approaching and seniors are trying to figure out how to choose a college or university to apply to. Where do they want to go to college? And why should they choose one college or university over another. What are the different types of colleges and universities? There are lots of choices!
At freshman orientation for our second child, I greatly appreciated that the principal started trying to address how competitive our high school had become.
He pointed out that 90% of the class will not be in the top 10%.
Obvious math, I know. But he was pointing this out because the idea was becoming prevalent that if you weren’t in the top 10% of the class, you were doomed to attend a second rate college or university and wouldn’t be successful. Therefore, “everyone” was chasing the top 10% so they wouldn’t be left behind. But when you embrace that reasoning, 90% of the kids sitting in orientation would be “left behind” and doomed to be unsuccessful.
A depressing idea.
90% of our children are living with constantly being told that they are failures.
No wonder everyone is scared and chasing the top 10%!
As an alternative to having the goal of attending only elite universities, he suggested considering the colleges proposed in Colleges that Change Lives, by Loren Pope.…
The response at our school district’s showing of Most Likely to Succeed was overwhelmingly positive. The film did a good job of pointing out all the weaknesses of our current system, but left you with an uplifting feeling. This was a welcome change from all of the other research I’ve done that has confirmed my fears that something is drastically wrong with our current educational system, but with little to offer in the way of change other than patching over some real problems.
I think the positive response was also in part to a growing concern I have seen in our district about the amount of homework and anxiety in our kids. Parents did bring up some valid concerns, some of which were answered by other parents present who work for testing agencies, state education agencies, and universities. The concerns were mainly centered on project based learning.
As I said, the documentary gave the impression that project based learning was the only option. Even though it was acknowledged early on in the discussion in our district that it was just one option, the discussion stayed pretty much on project based learning. The long and the short of it is…
How do you choose a college major? Based on my own experiences and the job search experiences of several women I know, picking a major based on the classes you like isn’t a good method. And you have a good chance of ending up un- or under-employed. Unfortunately, this method of picking your major based on favorite classes is most likely to be recommended to good students, the kids who have worked the hardest. And, unfortunately, because girls are more likely to be model students, this probably happens to a greater number of women than men.
Colleges and universities should do a better job educating the students about what kinds of majors lead to which jobs….