Synopses & Reviews
A groundbreaking manifesto for people searching for the kind of insight on leading, thinking, and living that elite schools should be — but aren’t — providing.
As a professor at Yale, Bill Deresiewicz saw something that troubled him deeply. His students, some of the nation’s brightest minds, were adrift when it came to the big questions: how to think critically and creatively, and how to find a sense of purpose.
Excellent Sheep takes a sharp look at the high-pressure conveyor belt that begins with parents and counselors who demand perfect grades and culminates in the skewed applications Deresiewicz saw firsthand as a member of Yale’s admissions committee. As schools shift focus from the humanities to "practical" subjects like economics and computer science, students are losing the ability to think in innovative ways. Deresiewicz explains how college should be a time for self-discovery, when students can establish their own values and measures of success, so they can forge their own path. He addresses parents, students, educators, and anyone who's interested in the direction of American society, featuring quotes from real students and graduates he has corresponded with over the years, candidly exposing where the system is broken and clearly presenting solutions.
"It might surprise the countless students competing for admission to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford that they could be fighting for a dubious prize. But in this probing indictment, a former Yale professor accuses America's top universities of turning young people into tunnel-visioned careerists, adept at padding their résumés and filling their bank accounts but unprepared to confront life's most important questions....An urgent summons to a long-overdue debate over what universities do and how they do it."
Booklist (starred review)
"An unquestionably provocative book that hopefully leads to productive debate."
About the Author
William Deresiewicz is a contributing writer for The Nation and contributing editor for The New Republic and The American Scholar. He speaks regularly on the state of education in America at schools and leadership conferences across the country to enormous interest and acclaim. An associate professor of English at Yale until 2008, he is the author of the highly acclaimed A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter. Visit BillDeresiewicz.com.