Dark Satanic Diploma Mills
A jeremiad against the Ivy League succumbs to its own selective outrage
The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life
by William Deresiewicz
$26.00 List Price
This book, in many ways, is a letter to my twenty-year-old self . . . about the kinds of things I wish someone had encouraged me to think about when I was going to college. I was like so many kids today. . . . I went off to college like a sleepwalker, like a zombie. College was a blank.” That’s how William Deresiewicz begins his blistering, arm-waving jeremiad against Ivy League colleges and their dozens of emulators, which are creating a caste that is ruining itself and society.
The members of this elite “have purchased self-perpetuation at the price of their children’s happiness,” he concludes 240 pages later, summing up his damning review of “the panic, the exhaustion, the sense of emptiness and aimlessness, the fearfulness and cynicism” in elite-college life. The social consequences for this new aristocracy are just as fearful: the “mediocrity, the cluelessness that comes of social segregation, the spectacular failure of leadership. . . . It is a kind of nemesis or tragic retribution. You think you’re screwing other people’s kids, but you also end up fucking up your own.”
So the preacher’s targets (and customers) include students’ parents, themselves increasingly products of the elite-college machine who must face their complicity and captivity: These schools “are not just powerless to reverse the movement toward a more unequal society; their policies actively promote it.” Helicopter parents and their children depend on increasing inequality, both to pad their social privilege and to provide undercompensated service-sector labor to shore up their overscheduled lives.