Saturday, August 6, 2011

The disadvantages of an elite education

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This article by William Deresiewicz has probably been cited N = too many times ad nauseum. But that's only because many people read it and resonated with the message.

Number and label games are much easier to play than the nebulous and mystical exercise of self-reflection. Like jamming round pegs into square holes. In my case, it's an amorphous peg.
The first disadvantage of an elite education, as I learned in my kitchen that day, is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you.
Oh is that ever so true. In my case, also add to the overwhelming inhibition factor of making small talk in general. Some days are better than others, but still. I can only imagine how I'd fare trying to talk to someone who doesn't have a scholarly background in some type of science or engineering or art or music. Like how I was at a loud bar trying to make conversation with a law school student. Utter and complete disaster that was. At least I was in a large group.
The second disadvantage is that an elite education inculcates a false sense of self-worth.
Hahahaha... for me that only lasted until end of high school. I did not have a traditional Ivy education during undergrad, but it was definitely very elite. And demanded a lot of self-initiative, which was pretty dead in me for reasons too complicated to go into right now. I froze in the headlights when I was in place where I really had to ponder concepts long and hard and work things out and struggle through dead ends in order to properly learn. I did not learn how to fail gracefully.
If you’re afraid to fail, you’re afraid to take risks, which begins to explain the final and most damning disadvantage of an elite education: that it is profoundly anti-intellectual.
Deresiewicz means that the system discourages self-motivated inquiries about the world. In that sense, I feel like perhaps I still retain some of that ability. I devour books and media about subjects that relate to my "job" to various degrees, from closely related to barely so. Even seemingly completely unrelated. I don't know whether this will help my earning potential in any significant way. With the world the way it is now, most likely not...

But I'll keep feeding my brain because it's one of the very few things that actually alleviates my ever-persistent existential crisis.

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