Education

The Ivy League Is Overrated, Says Ivy-Dominated New Republic

The magazine has a point!

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The Old Mole

William Deresiewicz has written an interesting essay titled "Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League." As a Michigan grad, I can't speak to how accurate his observations are about life at the Ivies today. But he does have a lot of sharp points to make about elite schools' role in the American class system. At places like Yale and Harvard, Deresiewicz argues, "diversity of sex and race has become a cover for increasing economic resegregation." Furthermore, "The college admissions game is not primarily about the lower and middle classes seeking to rise, or even about the upper-middle class attempting to maintain its position. It is about determining the exact hierarchy of status within the upper-middle class itself." The result, he writes, is "an elite that is isolated from the society that it's supposed to lead."

The article appeared in The New Republic, a magazine whose modern era began when it was purchased in 1974 by Martin Peretz, who attended graduate school at Harvard. Peretz quickly took over the editorial reins as well, serving as editor as well as owner until he hired a Harvard alum named Michael Kinsley in 1979. With Peretz staying on as editor-in-chief, the post of editor traded back and forth for a dozen years between Kinsley and fellow Harvard man Hendrik Hertzberg; in 1991, the job went to Andrew Sullivan, who upon completing his undergraduate studies in his native England earned both his master's and his PhD at Harvard. After Sullivan's departure, power passed to two acting editors, Peter Beinart and David Greenberg, both of Yale. The next full-fledged editor, Michael Kelly, attended the University of New Hampshire, which is not a part of the Ivy League. He was fired after about a year, and the job then passed on to Franklin Foer (Columbia) and Richard Just (Princeton). After Peretz departed the magazine, ownership fell into the hands of Harvard grad Chris Hughes, who purchased it in 2012, named himself editor-in-chief, and brought back Foer as editor.

Deresiewicz's article is subtitled "The nation's top colleges are turning our kids into zombies." You really should read it.