Excellent Sheep

Excellent Sheep

The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life

Free Press, 2014 more...

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Author William Deresiewicz grew up in a household that valued education, science, the Ivy League and a brilliant career. He became a professor at Yale University while still in his 30s (he later quit to become a writer). His fierce indictment of elite colleges, overbearing parents and driven students comes from firsthand experience. Deresiewicz portrays a system of higher education in which top colleges pursue only money and prestige, parents push children mercilessly – largely to bolster their own self-worth – and students (the titular sheep) care only about the obscene salaries they’ll command on graduation. However, these are not opinions to take literally. Reflect instead on Deresiewicz’s message; he is passionate and pushes his arguments to the extreme. He speaks to the rule, not the many exceptions. With that caveat, getAbstract recommends his call for better values and real learning to parents, students, employers, professors and those governed by his educated herd.


The “Excellent Sheep”

The best of America’s young people – bright leaders, active volunteers and all-around overachievers – head to the Ivy League or to another 100 or so elite colleges. Upon graduation, they enter America’s governmental and justice systems and fill the top ranks of prestigious law, consulting, finance and banking firms. They lead the country and have for decades. Unfortunately, they’re running it into the ground.

Today’s students enter college suffering from fear, stress, loneliness and depression. They hail from privileged, upper-middle-class backgrounds or from true wealth, and have known nothing but success and positive reinforcement. They work hard in high school, achieving exceptional grades and leading, if not founding, clubs and teams. An Ivy League university or elite college is their only imaginable destination. For the excellent sheep, it’s either “Harvard or the gutter.”

Little true diversity exists at elite US colleges. Students of all races and religions, from all over the world, mix together, but they share the same views. Elite colleges do admit students from groups below the upper middle class, but in such low numbers that their...

About the Author

William Deresiewicz quit his Yale professorship to pursue his passion – writing. He speaks widely and writes on a variety of topics, including education.

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