The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

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The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby dano » Tue Jun 24, 2008 2:00 pm

I was reading this article in yesterday's NY Times, about the tendency, among the younger graduates of elite colleges/universities (it focuses on Harvard), away from careers in public service, non-profits, etc. and towards more corporate ones, like investment and consulting. What I found more interesting, though, is another related article it linked to in The American Scholar. It's by William Deresiewicz, journalist and associate English prof at Yale; selections of it are quoted below my comments.

I'm not going to try to paraphrase it all, but it seems that WD is arguing, in part, that the so-called 'meritocracy' of the elite college world first, is calibrated on a very specific type of intelligence ("analytic" he calls it) and second, that it breaks down once students are in the institution. He writes that it is difficult for students to fail in such places, and that an overwhelming priority of such institutions is persistent self-flattering--reminding students of their elite status, inflating GPAs, shunning those or that which doesn't smell of 'success,' etc. WD seems to suggest that there is a sense in these places that just being there is 'making it,' and he extends that ethos to the performance of many products of elite colleges in the business world ("The fat salaries paid to underperforming CEOs are an adult version of the A-").

This article reminded me of an old debate that started on the "Haverford finally recognizes the track team..." thread (which I'm not linking to because it almost caused me to transfer from the college) about the apparent lack of 'success' and rigorous principles at Haverford, especially when compared to the Ivies. So I'm interested in the debate a few years later. Considering both articles, these are some of my questions: What explains the career tracks of many Haverford grads? Does the institution prod them in any particular direction? Is it possible to fail at a place like Haverford? Should students graduate bearing "questions, not resumes" (as WD hallows)? Do they at Haverford? Does our school succeed in some areas where Harvard, Yale et al fail?

I'll stop writing, but I'm particularly interested in where Bernie stands, as he was outspoken on the forementioned thread, and has studied in both types of places (as has Sarge, and certainly others). Also, I'm curious where those who fall into a more Ivy-type sense of "success" with regard to their professions (law, finance, business) have to say.


It’s not surprising that it took me so long to discover the extent of my miseducation, because the last thing an elite education will teach you is its own inadequacy. As two dozen years at Yale and Columbia have shown me, elite colleges relentlessly encourage their students to flatter themselves for being there, and for what being there can do for them. 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.


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.


There are due dates and attendance requirements at places like Yale, but no one takes them very seriously. Extensions are available for the asking; threats to deduct credit for missed classes are rarely, if ever, carried out. In other words, students at places like Yale get an endless string of second chances .... Students at places like Cleveland State, unlike those at places like Yale, don’t have a platoon of advisers and tutors and deans to write out excuses for late work, give them extra help when they need it, pick them up when they fall down.


The elite like to think of themselves as belonging to a meritocracy, but that’s true only up to a point. Getting through the gate is very difficult, but once you’re in, there’s almost nothing you can do to get kicked out. Not the most abject academic failure, not the most heinous act of plagiarism, not even threatening a fellow student with bodily harm—I’ve heard of all three—will get you expelled. The feeling is that, by gosh, it just wouldn’t be fair—in other words, the self-protectiveness of the old-boy network, even if it now includes girls. Elite schools nurture excellence, but they also nurture what a former Yale graduate student I know calls “entitled mediocrity.” A is the mark of excellence; A- is the mark of entitled mediocrity. It’s another one of those metaphors, not so much a grade as a promise. It means, don’t worry, we’ll take care of you. You may not be all that good, but you’re good enough.


Paradoxically, the situation may be better at second-tier schools and, in particular, again, at liberal arts colleges than at the most prestigious universities .... These are the kinds of kids who are likely, once they get to college, to be more interested in the human spirit than in school spirit, and to think about leaving college bearing questions, not resumés (my emphasis).
Last edited by dano on Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby Juan » Tue Jun 24, 2008 3:05 pm

i think there is also a historical dimension to the way the ivies are now. back in the 60's and 70's i'm pretty sure the ivies were banging out many more left-leaning, radically oriented graduates heading into careers in public service. There was a period there in the 60's when many of harvard law's best and brightest were heading into inner cities to do civil rights work. The poor and minorities had access to some of the best legal representation available. Then, there was some kind of backlash against that trend and my uncle told me some staggering statistic about how one year in the eighties around 20% of yale graduates went to work for the same investment banking firm (Lehman brothers or goldman sachs, something like that). not coincidentally, Reagan is king of the world.

I don't mean to say that liberals necessarily have questions and conservatives only have resumes, this doesn't get at that part of your question. But i do think it's important to recognize that the ivies were making a different contribution to the work force and national culture not so long ago. fingers crossed, they'll get back to that.

on the question of that attitude of entitlement: I don't think there's any reason to think haverford or any other highly ranked liberal arts college is different. haverford spends alot of time telling us how special we are. it might not be as extreme as at the ivies but the same mentality is there.
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby wombat » Tue Jun 24, 2008 3:41 pm

what I take from that is a fundamental issue with our educational system at large...that what anyone achieves at one level is directed almost exclusively toward where s/he studies next. that high school is about getting into the kind of prestigious college that guarantees you a privileged starting point for jobs or allows you to apply to a top-tier graduate/professional school, which in turn opens doors for you that are not available to others, regardless of one's performance at that prestigious school. getting in matters more than what you achieve and (heaven forbid) learn when you get there. mediocre achievement at harvard trumps outstanding work elsewhere, that there's an assumption that just showing up at a big name place means that you're better prepared than others.

in (humanities) academia, that means, in effect, that for grad school admissions disproportionate emphasis is placed on your high school career in that it's what enabled you to go to the elite college/university...when of course what you actually learned in college is what matters. then your job prospects are severely curtailed if your undergraduate diploma didn't get you into a big name grad program, so that, again, what you did as an undergraduate is assigned inordinate significance relative to your graduate work. harvard and yale grads are all over wannabe elite liberal arts college faculties, regardless of how strong a given program is. this enforces a peter principle, where undergraduate success -- which doesn't predict the ability to teach and research very well -- determines later placements. as a result, a lot of 'successful' academics are successful because they did well at the test-taking and information-cramming that still comprises too much of undergraduate evaluation...skills that are useless for teaching and innovative research.

(and of course faculties at R-1 institutions often do not emphasize teaching and advising, so the graduate student supposedly 'studying' with the great minds that give a school its reputation are in fact not really getting much benefit out of the teacher-student relationship, let alone learning anything about the pedagogy that might make them successful undergraduate teachers.)
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby stormin mormon » Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:21 am

That second article is fantastic Dan, thank you for posting it.

It articulates much of what I feel every day with my students, the importance of playing the game and focusing on the next step destroys any ability to figure out what you really want, any ability to think hard about the system because you spend all your time playing into it, and the way that schools (unfortunately I think Haverford does this to an extent that may not reach that of Yale as Deresiewicz decribes it) isolate their students from the rest of the world by teaching them that they are better and brighter and that people that think differently or perhaps don't even think about the same issues are stupid and beneath them. Watch the interactions between most students at Haverford and the staff there (I don't mean faculty) and you see that disconnect already well-entrenched.

I've used a speech by Sir Ken Robinson from the TED conference in which he describes college professors as the big winners in our educational system. To an extent, I completely agree. I also think the big winners are many of the people on Wall Street or other powerful places who get all the prizes. In the other article, it talks about colleges urging people to think about service careers, but why in the world would they do that when all the loot is given to those that become consultants and investment bankers, etc.

There is a world out there with rewards that I think are far greater than the monetary or status-based ones that Deresiewicz says await those with elite educations but most of the "best and brightest" students I come across every day have lost the ability to comprehend those rewards because they have been taught to seek after only those of money and fame and power.

Also Ian, can you imagine a world in which a relatively large percentage of Ivy League graduates went into the military? Even in the beginning of this century that was true. I think much of the change that Deresiewicz talks about has really arisen in the last 15-20 years and has moved even more quickly in the last 5-10.

I honestly think I saw far less of the quirky, really different "out there" people at Haverford in 2002 than I did in 1996. They just don't make it anymore because they don't fit the "profile" because most of them aren't as into playing the game as they have to be to get in nowadays.
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby jconeprep » Wed Jun 25, 2008 1:11 pm

stormin mormon wrote:Also Ian, can you imagine a world in which a relatively large percentage of Ivy League graduates went into the military? Even in the beginning of this century that was true. I think much of the change that Deresiewicz talks about has really arisen in the last 15-20 years and has moved even more quickly in the last 5-10.


JB, do you mean early 1900s or 2000s?
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby stormin mormon » Wed Jun 25, 2008 1:12 pm

Oops, I meant the early 1900's. Thanks Cone.
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby Lanhammer Time » Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:55 pm

wait wait wait wait wait. my SAT scores don't automatically make me a good person? i actually have to do something good too? dammit.
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby Seeselb » Wed Jun 25, 2008 3:42 pm

stormin mormon wrote: I also think the big winners are many of the people on Wall Street or other powerful places who get all the prizes. In the other article, it talks about colleges urging people to think about service careers, but why in the world would they do that when all the loot is given to those that become consultants and investment bankers, etc.

There is a world out there with rewards that I think are far greater than the monetary or status-based ones that Deresiewicz says await those with elite educations but most of the "best and brightest" students I come across every day have lost the ability to comprehend those rewards because they have been taught to seek after only those of money and fame and power.

.



"When all the loot is given to those that become consultants and investment bankers"


Maybe they're earning it, rather than having it "given to them."

And it's in the eye of the beholder whether other rewards are greater than money. Some people want money, some people want to help others, and I would argue that it's quite possible to do both at the same time.

In any case, who are you to tell others what they should value and what they shouldn't?
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby stormin mormon » Wed Jun 25, 2008 8:39 pm

Obviously I am not the person to tell people what to value, I simply wanted to state what I value as I felt it was relevant to the point.

Maybe it comes down to wishing that high schools and colleges should just be honest about what they are doing instead of pretending to "educate" people. For the most part at these elite institutions and the high schools that prepare kids to get into them, we are training entitled kids who will have the connections to get high-paying jobs and powerful positions because of who they know and the stamps on their passport, not because of what they do.

There are parents of students I've had who will do anything to make sure that their child receives an A in the class regardless of how much work they did, the quality of the work, whether they cheated or not, etc. Deresiewicz points out some of the issues with grade inflation and I know first-hand how hard it can be to get below a 2.7 at Haverford, even though I managed it several times. I also know that in the end it doesn't matter because I have a diploma from Haverford which can open some pretty significant doors. It has nothing to do with the quality of work I did there and much more to do with the place that Haverford is perceived to be and other people who've gone there. I do not argue that it is without merit, I think Haverford is a pretty good place to learn. I do not believe that it comes close to accomplishing what it claims to do in terms of educating the whole person and valuing education over anything else. They have to try and get alums to give money too, and they do many of the things that Deresiewicz describes at Yale.

As Deresiewicz quotes Ruskin: “Work must always be,and captains of work must always be....[But] there is a wide difference between being captains...of work, and taking the profits of it.”

In terms of "earning it," I think that is an entirely different discussion that has much more to do with who is lucky enough to be born in the right position to have access to those high-paying, prestigious jobs and who isn't. In my experience, many of the people who are "earning" huge amounts of money aren't doing it because they work harder than others but because they had the road to get there paved for them by being born into the right socio-economic category. It isn't that they don't work hard or make good decisions or that they don't deserve to be paid well for the good work they do. But I don't believe that they deserve to get paid anywhere from 3-100 times as much as a good mechanic or a good home-builder or a good public defender, etc.

My friend's dad who installs windows for a living puts in as many hours as my friend that works for Merryl Lynch in the city and takes technical skill and experience to do well, but he doesn't "earn" as much money. What would be more damaging to our society and our way of life, getting rid of all the auto-mechanics or getting rid of all consultants? But obviously consulting is a more "value added" job so they make more money? What is more important, having really talented smart people in the military to make good decisions from the unit level to the theater level or having smart talented people dream up more and more complicated financial instruments to increase profits on the bond market?

I completely agree that you can help people and make money at the same time, it happens all over the place. What I do not think is true is that people working on Wall Street are earning more money than lots and lots of other hard-working people. They get paid more money because there is so much money tied up in the financial markets, but especially with the recent problems in the industry, it is hard to believe that they are wiser, harder-working, or smarter than lots of people in other industries. Does the CEO of Countrywide financial "earn" more money than you or Stroever or Foley or whoever else? Is he that much smarter, does he work that much harder? Does the fact that the stock of the company he is running is worth 81% less than it was last year prove that he "earned" what may turn out to be 110+ million dollars in a severance package?

Sorry, I get carried away, but I struggle to understand how people like Mozilo are "earning" the huge sums they are paid compared to people that make difficult decisions on a daily basis in the places where they work, people who work really hard and put in long hours, people who are smart and capable and talented... why aren't they "earning" that money? Mozilo wasn't risking anything as CEO, no matter what he did he'd walk away with 50+ million a year and a severance package no matter how good or how bad his decisions were.
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby Juan » Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:50 pm

jb you are a communist. i never saw this coming. i suppose there's nothing like educating the spoiled spawn of the main line to radicalize someone. if you want to maintain any semblance of political moderation you'd better head to a less infuriating school district.
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby stormin mormon » Thu Jun 26, 2008 6:21 am

Ian, lets at least get it right, socialist not communist. I don't even think I am that socialist. I have more problems with the fact that we are in a "capitalist" system in which far too many of our big companies are only viable because of government support whether it is in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, or what have you. Let's stop pretending that we are in a free-market when we bail out Bear Sterns, etc. Now, do I want the chaos that likely would have followed their collapse? Not really, so I don't even have a huge problem with that one, but let's call a spade a spade. Our giant food companies (ConAgra, etc.) get HUGE support from congress because they have a great lobby. We subsidize McDonalds, Oil Companies, the list goes on and on.

My dad's friend and economist calls it "state capitalism," in which ownership is not vested in the state but the state, through regulatory policies and subsidies, tries to push "the system" in what are presumably beneficial directions. The issue with people like Mozilo is one that actually should concern capitalists, because the CEO class in this country is never held accountable for their failures. I think the issue should be accountability - up and down the line. Wayne's dad is held accountable by market forces; in Mozilo's case, favorable regulatory (or in this case, non-regulatory) policies created a "black hole" of non-transparency and non-accountability - with consequences that are actually disastrous for the capitalist economy.

Maybe it's easy to be socialist when you are a lowly government employee and only barely exposed to the risk of the free market...
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby Seeselb » Thu Jun 26, 2008 7:29 am

stormin mormon wrote:
In terms of "earning it," I think that is an entirely different discussion that has much more to do with who is lucky enough to be born in the right position to have access to those high-paying, prestigious jobs and who isn't. In my experience, many of the people who are "earning" huge amounts of money aren't doing it because they work harder than others but because they had the road to get there paved for them by being born into the right socio-economic category. It isn't that they don't work hard or make good decisions or that they don't deserve to be paid well for the good work they do. But I don't believe that they deserve to get paid anywhere from 3-100 times as much as a good mechanic or a good home-builder or a good public defender, etc. .


Maybe you're right that this is a separate issue. But since we're on the subject, I would say that how hard you work is irrelevant. Compensation is tied more to the financial impact of what you do.

I also take issue with two ideas in this paragraph.

First, your statement that "many of the people who are earning huge amounts of money [are doing so] because they are born into the right socioeconomic category." Maybe that's your experience, but do you really have firm data to back up that assertion more broadly? First you'd have to define what the "right socioeconomic class" means...then you'd have to define what jobs pay "huge amounts of money"....and finally, you'd have to structure some type of study that definitively shows that the majority of people in those "huge paying" jobs came from the "right socioeconomic class," as you define it.

I'm not trying to nitpick here, but I'm basically saying that this is a vague assertion that you can't support with any actual research.

And to your point about being paid 3-100 times as much as a good mechanic...let's consider the CEO of General Electric, just as an example. He's at the helm of a $100+ billion dollar company. He makes strategic decisions that have an enormous financial impact for the company's employees and shareholders (to the upside or the downside). I would argue that this is a much rarer skill than fixing a car. And on top of that, GE's business model and financial structure are a bit different from your average garage. And finally, an auto mechanic's decisions have nowhere near the financial impact of the CEO of GE. So yes, I do think it's legitimate for the CEO of GE (as an example) to be paid many times more than an auto mechanic.

So it's not just about how hard you work...it's also important to consider the specific responsibilities at which that hard work is directed. What is the financial impact of those responsibilities? Running a $100+ billion company is different than fixing a car.

It almost seems silly to compare corporate executives with auto mechanics...it's a very extreme apples to oranges comparison.

stormin mormon wrote:
My friend's dad who installs windows for a living puts in as many hours as my friend that works for Merryl Lynch in the city and takes technical skill and experience to do well, but he doesn't "earn" as much money. What would be more damaging to our society and our way of life, getting rid of all the auto-mechanics or getting rid of all consultants? But obviously consulting is a more "value added" job so they make more money? What is more important, having really talented smart people in the military to make good decisions from the unit level to the theater level or having smart talented people dream up more and more complicated financial instruments to increase profits on the bond market? .


Again, you're comparing apples and oranges. Let me ask you this:

If your friend's dad does a crappy job on someone's windows, what financial impact does it have on the business he works for? If he does well, what impact does that have?

If your friend at Merrill does a crappy job, what financial impact does it have on Merrill? If he does well, what is the impact?

I don't know exactly what your friend at Merrill does, but I'm betting the upside/downside risk is much greater in absolute terms than your friend's dad. That's why your friend at Merrilll gets paid more. Number of hours worked is not the issue.

stormin mormon wrote:I completely agree that you can help people and make money at the same time, it happens all over the place. What I do not think is true is that people working on Wall Street are earning more money than lots and lots of other hard-working people. They get paid more money because there is so much money tied up in the financial markets, but especially with the recent problems in the industry, it is hard to believe that they are wiser, harder-working, or smarter than lots of people in other industries. Does the CEO of Countrywide financial "earn" more money than you or Stroever or Foley or whoever else? Is he that much smarter, does he work that much harder? Does the fact that the stock of the company he is running is worth 81% less than it was last year prove that he "earned" what may turn out to be 110+ million dollars in a severance package?.


I can't speak for Stroever and Foley, but I know the CEO of Countrywide has a much tougher job than I do. His decisions have far-reaching implications for Countrywide's employees and shareholders. Yes he made some bad ones, but that happens. I am not tasked with decisions like that all day. As such, I don't expect to be paid the same way.

The number of hours I work compared to the CEO of Countrywide is completely irrelevant. And I bet he works way more than me anyway.
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby stormin mormon » Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:11 am

There's a good book on the subject that I have at school but not with me so I can't quote the numbers directly. Basically a rich child (upper 1/3) of the country is about 25 times more likely to attend an elite (top 25 universities and colleges) school than those below that range. Basic numbers I know, but there's plenty to support it including the trend of financial aid going less and less to really low-income families and more to make sure upper-middle class kids don't take out too much debt (not that that's a bad thing, but it demonstrates how few of the truly disadvantaged have any chance of going to an "elite" school) Info about the book can be found here: http://www.colorandmoney.blogspot.com/

There's lots and lots of research that supports the way that admission into top schools works, but I also see it anecdotally every day. Kids without the means simply don't have a chance. They don't speak the right language, they don't take the right classes, they don't argue for the right grades, their parents don't exert pressure on administrators to make sure they get the right grades, into the right classes with the right teachers, or just pay for private school. They can't get in. They don't even know how to apply because the counselors at their school aren't concerned with getting kids into Ivies or anywhere else, if they even have a counselor that functions in their school, many don't.

As for the other comparison, yes it is apples to oranges.

My point is not that their jobs should be or are in many ways similar. My point is that we are supposed to be in a capitalist society where market forces rule. In the case of installing windows, if he does a poor job, he runs the risk of not getting referred to his next job or even facing legal action to take back money paid, etc. His decisions do not have a larger financial effect on anyone outside of his immediate family. Mozilo's have HUGE effects on all kinds of people. So shouldn't he be responsible for those decisions?

If, as you move up the scale to make bigger and bigger and more important and far-reaching decisions, your risk in terms of making the incorrect decisions is actually lessened, how does it mean you are then "earning" more money? In that case it appears to be less "earning" and more being handed that cash maybe because of previous "earning" and good decision making, but apparently it has little to do with performance in that current position. Mozilo is going to walk away with pockets bulging with cash and benefits and everything else no matter what he does. I, on the other hand, face consequences from his decisions and those like him as I try to get a mortgage. It is increasingly difficult and expensive for me to do so thanks to decisions they made. So I know they have far-reaching effects, but shouldn't they also be responsible in some way for their performance?

I think the idea of far-reaching implications or upside/downside risk is important, but the way we calculate those is deeply flawed. If every teacher in the country decided that they would do what we all know some teachers do in terms of simply doing the bare minimum and collecting their paycheck, what is the financial cost of that? That would effect millions of people every day and the long-term cost would likely be incalculably large.

No one can calculate what the long term cost will be of churning out money-making machines from the top universities rather than really independent, capable thinkers who are willing to go against the system, even if it means earning less money and riding their bike instead of driving a BMW.
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby burgrunner » Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:42 am

Seeselb wrote:
stormin mormon wrote:
In terms of "earning it," I think that is an entirely different discussion that has much more to do with who is lucky enough to be born in the right position to have access to those high-paying, prestigious jobs and who isn't. In my experience, many of the people who are "earning" huge amounts of money aren't doing it because they work harder than others but because they had the road to get there paved for them by being born into the right socio-economic category. It isn't that they don't work hard or make good decisions or that they don't deserve to be paid well for the good work they do. But I don't believe that they deserve to get paid anywhere from 3-100 times as much as a good mechanic or a good home-builder or a good public defender, etc. .


I also take issue with two ideas in this paragraph.


I'm not trying to nitpick here, but I'm basically saying that this is a vague assertion that you can't support with any actual research.

And to your point about being paid 3-100 times as much as a good mechanic...let's consider the CEO of General Electric, just as an example. He's at the helm of a $100+ billion dollar company. He makes strategic decisions that have an enormous financial impact for the company's employees and shareholders (to the upside or the downside). I would argue that this is a much rarer skill than fixing a car. And on top of that, GE's business model and financial structure are a bit different from your average garage. And finally, an auto mechanic's decisions have nowhere near the financial impact of the CEO of GE. So yes, I do think it's legitimate for the CEO of GE (as an example) to be paid many times more than an auto mechanic.


I was going to go into my argument when I realized I am never sure where I stand on this issue. Also, all I really feel like I can say after reading everything again is that Seeselb what you are doing is the exact same thing. You have absolutely nothing to back up your claims in this post and completely use your own beliefs and general vague ideas/assertions; rather, you use no actual data/facts to support your argument and yet you denounce someone else's standpoint because of their lack of detailed facts. This seems ironic to say the least.
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Re: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Postby burgrunner » Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:09 am

So, I am glad you responded JB looks like I was taking to long with this post.

I am just going to throw down my own personal feelings/examples coming from what I know. I think this approach does help

I completely believe in the entitled kids people argument to a degree and I think it expands greatly to later in life. I think socioeconomic class helps determine everything for the most part. It is why I came to Haverford probably reason numero uno. I wanted the best I could get and hell I could also get Tom and the team, so it seemed perfect, except having to live on the Main line with Main liners ( kidding Ian, I actually never think of you like that, for the most part)

What seems to be the saddest thing of all is that education is supposed to help be the great equalizer and yet it is becoming much less of an equalizer and more of the dividing line.

While many jobs shouldn’t even need a college degree, they are required now. Just a little while ago there was a slight upswing in pay/opportunity for blue collar construction jobs. This has fallen off though with the economy. It was mainly driven by just about everyone going to college and providing a serious lack of demand for the average college degrees in certain markets with a higher demand for someone with a trade ( and possibly mafia connections but that’s a whole other story).

I actually spoke yesterday with a bunch of people at work (Haverford) about this and they all agreed to some extent. [Side note JB: Smitty says hello]. They all suggested we, "kids today", have no where near the flexibility in options of how to get ahead. It seems the window of what to do, to be "successful," is closing. I thought about one of our graduation speakers this year, Dr Holmes Morton. He dropped out of high school joined the navy taught himself about math/science for years on a ship. Applied for a special program, based on the English Tutor system, at Trinity College and was accepted despite being a high school drop-out who earned his GED and needed to take the College boards and being 6 years older than any other freshmen still. They took him though after realizing he was a self educated man and could do this. He went on to Harvard med and well has done some incredible things. I asked the people at work some connected with admissions if Haverford would ever take him today. They all looked at me and pretty much said very, very unlikely he would be accepted to Haverford today.

I know I believed that education was the key and was always told that over and over again, especially by my parents. They believed if I worked my ass off I could get into a good college, not just college, and then do better for myself than they had and provide even more for my kids, standard parents' hope for their kids I think. I definitely think this is why so many parents want to do anything for their kid to make sure they get ahead. At times, I understand but I am mostly disgusted. My parents definitely never went to the extremes of getting grades changed or buying a professional assistant to do my college applications. My parents just didn't even think that was a possibility. This is why, however, I traveled to Roman and didn't go to the neighborhood school. It was not exactly a prep school, we couldn't afford that, so I went to the best we could afford. This is also a reason why I never felt I could say anything to a couple guys who would do anything in high school to make sure they got ahead. I wanted to see them succeed, they were my friends. In a world where it meant they had to compete with the best money could buy and they had none, I felt it was just what they did. I remember feeling pretty morally conflicted at the time and still am, but it made sense to me then. These guys were like me at best and often times in a far worse situation for home life and money. While our parents didn’t have a clue about the college admissions game, we scoured every source possible to find out how to be like the “suburb/prep kids”(These were dirty words and pretty much slurs to us. We actually all got into LaSalle or The Prep or another such school but couldn’t afford it; so, honestly, we were at times jealous). When it came time for college decisions after years of hard work, which is relative by high school, I felt like I was ready to go almost anywhere and do well and at least just as good as anyone else there despite what high school they came from.

I applied and got into a variety of places and waited on financial issues. I went to Haverford because it was the best school and because of economic background it actually provided the most money despite the lack of scholarships, which I got from other places. In fact, my high school assistant principal was one of many people whom encouraged me to apply and be hopeful when he found out I was interested in Haverford. He told me not to worry about money, since it was still a rich kids school to a great extent. No worry about the money though seemed and seems even harder to do now that tuition is 50k/year. He told me though that I would be on the lower end here, especially compared to somewhere like LaSalle, and could get the best deal. A lot of guys in my class had to make the decision between money/prestige, luckily I and a few others didn't it just worked out. I don't think it’s because of how hard we worked or anything other than a little planning and a lot of luck. I am pretty sure now more and more I filled a quote and so did those other guys. We knew if our numbers were close we could sell ourselves as diverse and we did that. I got invited to diversity weekend here as the token white kid whose parents didn’t go to college. So sometimes, I think hell maybe quotas are good things for college admission. Other times, like when 150 people from L.I., NY get into Haverford I get pissed off. Apparently, admissions actually has a joke about white females from North Jersey being less than a dime a dozen and if one more applies they should just start sending consolation prizes.

I thought I couldn't get into certain schools, though, and was pretty concerned about Haverford, especially wondering what it would be like to be up against people here ( I still thought of education as a competition, at this point, which is actually one the reasons I wanted to go here, too. I thought that would end at Haverford because of the Honor Code). I don't think I was as "prepared" as certain people coming in but more importantly I don't think I was as smart as some others. I am pretty sure though some of the prepared kids, from some pretty elite schools, I was helping get through their classes, despite the fact even I struggled at first. I started to notice how some kids were just “blowing their opportunity here” but then I also started to realize/think they hadn't blown anything they could float through and probably do fine. They did just as well as I did or better. Were they that much smarter? No, from even what they told me it just depended on the class and how much they could B.S. the system in certain classes when it came time to do so. They were so proud of this. They were never going to be the top of the class here but they could get by just fine and that was all they needed.

I think that it is completely a personal option whether or not you want to work/learn here or anywhere like this place. If you choose to do so, you can really learn a lot and accomplish some great things and get ahead and you may need to do that. Others don’t though and will still be fine and do well if not good in life. There option, whatever.I think Haverford is kind of split between those who do and those who do not in many ways. To be fair, though, this place is tougher than pretty much anywhere else. My friends at Penn continually tell me how much they DON”T do and how much harder Haverford sounds but they are all on their way. They continue to work the system and deal with what they need to do, rather than just do their school work and learn in order to get ahead.

The people here tend to be smarter but I don’t really know if they “work” harder than most people. They think they do but I am never really sure about that. This really broke me for awhile because I felt like I did know at least some people who worked hard(er) at “lesser colleges” or thought they were fine. Nevertheless, they are in a tough place though because their college name didn’t mean as much. They ended up not doing so well or are struggling to find an internship even.
Naked I came, naked I leave the scene,
And naked was my pastime in between.
burgrunner
 
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