Monday, July 28, 2008

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

The American Scholar has an introspective essay on The Disadvantages of an Elite Education.

Elite schools -- should we count among these the elite in the Philippines? -- encourage a homogeneity of thought that is stratified along a certain class line. So much so that it's harder for its students to relate to those outside of that circle.

Recounting his experience with a plumber, the author begins:

Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League dees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.


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.

I always felt a little underprivileged coming from the University of San Carlos (and I might add, "Talamban Campus"). No mollycoddling there. But my first few years on the job showed me that I really didn't miss all that much. Hard knocks took care of the rest.