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

The magazine has a point!


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.

NEXT: Independents Open Thread

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “As a Michigan grad….” I’ll assume that’s Aye Squared, not Dearborn or Flint. 1/2 hour from the crib.

    Walker, you resilient bastard….you got a little Great Lakes State in you.


  2. I read this article this morning. I don’t think it was perfectly on point, but I do have to agree with the diversity point. I brought far more diversity to Cornell than the vast majority of the minorities there, on account of growing up outside of the upper-middle class to upper-class. The idea that I had to make choices about what to buy or work a job that actually paid because I needed the money more than a resume boost was almost unthinkable. I hadn’t been overseas? How is that possible!?!

    1. You poor people make me sick.

      1. Maybe you should quit licking them.

          1. That movie gets better and better in my head the more time that passes since I last saw it.

            Where the hell is Davit Arquette in that scene?

      2. Excellent. My plan is working.

        I didn’t get out of that hellhole of broadcast TV by playing nice.

    2. Anyone from outside “Lon Gyland” would add to Cornell’s diversity.

      1. The Indian girl from Hong Kong who once casually remarked “Maybe I’ll have my dad buy a aerospace company so I can work in the USA without citizenship” would suggest that sentiment isn’t totally true (though it does have some merit).

        1. When I was at Cornell, supposedly the guy who will eventually inherit the Coors Brewing Co. was there. Lived in a mansion in Cayuga Heights and went to the Hotel school in a chauffeured SUV.

          I considered standing outside the engineering quad and begging for alms.

          1. Turns out I know a girl whose family owns InBev. That’s actually form UVM though.

  3. Also, I just saw an article that suggested that Bernie Sanders is threatening a presidential run. LOL.

    1. Too many radical leftists splitting the ticket. Warren/Sanders 2016.

      1. He’s threatening the run to get Warren in there. When she announces, he’ll drop out and throw full prog support behind Cuhtahlatah

  4. Sounds like a rip-off of Charles Murray.

    1. You would never get the Author to admit that.

    2. That’s exactly right. That’s the first thing I thought of . Murray’s cognitive elite and its attendant problems.

  5. Sarcasm Button On:
    I do not understand this article.The Ivy League schools are where such elitists as Henry Kissinger, Barack Obama, the Clintons and the Bush family went to school. One has only to examine closely the results of these Dear Leaders records to see how they have made America’s reputation in the world what it is today. One can not make contact with other elitists at a public school, especially amongst the foreign students from such enlightened, open and free countries such as Saudia Arabia, Bengladish, and Russia. Do people really believe the elitists from other countries would send their children to a public school? Of course not! The foreign elitists only would send their offspring to an Ivy League school so they can become acquainted and friends with America elitists. Elitists with elitists, the masses go to public universities to meet with other commoners. The mixing of elitists with common folk would only result in confusion later should the ruling classes start applying principles of freedom. Disaster would reign in these elitists countries. Hell on earth would result as people might want to think for themselves, running their own business, or Marx forbid, own a gun! Does anyone want that on their conscience? So let us all rid ourselves of the thought of not having the world’s elitists not going to an Ivy League school. They have made the world what it is today, and who would want to change it?
    Sarcasm Button Off

  6. From the article:

    No one but me knows he fakes being well-read by thumbing through the first and last chapters of any book he hears about and obsessively devouring reviews in lieu of the real thing. He does this not because he’s incurious, but because there’s a bigger social reward for being able to talk about books than for actually reading them.

    Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan was prophetic.

    1. That was a great book. Especially the last chapter.

      1. +1000

      2. err…

        I don’t think the Novel and the Movie have anything to do with each other.

  7. “an elite that is isolated from the society that it’s supposed to lead.”

    The problem is not (IMO) that the elite is *isolated*, but that people think they’re supposed to *lead society*.

    1. I really hate the phrase “leader of the free world”.

      If it’s free then no one should be leading!

    2. Yeah that quote bugged me as well.

      They should be inventing cool shit for me to own and making everything cheaper.

      I don’t need a god damn Ivy League prick telling me what to do.

    3. A bigger problem is that those brain-dead shitheels believe that they’re “elite”, no matter how many times their Machiavellian schemes fail.


  8. Look at the grades of the ‘leaders’ who have come from these schools. They get where they are because of money and the college brand name.

    What’s more funny – look at the writers at places like the NYT and other major papers. The vast majority? Ivy leaguers.

    I have no doubt that those who attend Ivy League schools aren’t anywhere near as intelligent as people are led to believe. Plenty of people at public schools are just as smart and work harder.

    Ivy Leagues are, like most things that cost more in America, all about the brand name you can slap on a resume.

    1. I imagine Ivy Leaguers with degrees in engineering, medicine and science are smarter then you (and me).

      Of course that can probably said about engineers doctors and scientists from state colleges….

      and is probably limited to their area of expertize.

      The whole idea of increased general wisdom and intelligence gleaned from a humanities degree no matter where the fuck it is from is pure superstition.

      1. How are you measuring intelligence? Do you just value those skills? I can understand that, but making sweeping statements on IQ based on degree choice alone seems…flawed.

        And while certain degrees may have more readily identifiable applications, it’s not as if those are the only skills of value.

        1. it’s not as if those are the only skills of value.

          Harvard does not give you IQ. Either you are learning a skill or you are not.

          There is no general IQ skill that can be learned.

          And even if there was can you in good faith claim Ivy League schools are teaching it?

          1. Harvard does not give you IQ. Either you are learning a skill or you are not.

            Neither does a degree in the sciences or engineering, though. That was sort of my point about making a blanket statement such as yours, and why I asked how you are measuring intelligence.

            The few fields you mentioned clearly don’t cover all the skills needed in a wide variety of career paths. It’s one thing to argue that too many people are wasting money on worthless degree choices with little job opportunities. That doesn’t mean they provide or have no skills that would benefit them in certain fields compared to someone with a degree in the sciences.

            Frankly, I’m of the view that an intelligent person can be trained and taught how to do most jobs. So, I’m in agreement. You can’t teach IQ points. That’s why I’m having a hard time with what you said on intelligence.

            And even if there was can you in good faith claim Ivy League schools are teaching it?

            No. I already said I view them as empty brand names that allow the rich to network and keep their status.

            The only real fact in the New Republic article hit on this. While these schools harp on diversity and come up with new buzz words to describe their policies, class diversity (which is what should really matter) is going down.

            Diversity to these people means skin color or sex. That alone is all I need to know about how intelligent the people who run and go to these schools actually are, by and large. Privileged little shits.

      2. I’ve worke with ChE from Yale and another engineer from Harvard. Both were smart, hardworking, and normal, at least for engineers. But they were no better as engineers than the typical UT or even an Aggie engineer.

  9. The first thing that college is for is to teach you to think. That doesn’t simply mean developing the mental skills particular to individual disciplines.

    What the fuck?!?! No. The world is too fucking big and to fucking complex to stuff it into the box of a 4 year general humanities degree. It is all about developing a particular knowledge and skill…otherwise you are there just for the credential.

    The Author did not learn how to think.

  10. It is a truth universally acknowledged that really smart people are frequently fucking idiots.

    i.e. The New Republic.

  11. “”The result, he writes, is “an elite that is isolated from the society that it’s supposed to lead.””


    Well done jesse.

    To make it even funnier? They wont get it. The post will be linked to in dozens of very un-ironic citations.

  12. I just assume that most people who go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, maybe Penn for liberal arts type degrees do so for the contacts & networking.

  13. my experience suggests that ivy leaguers tend to never get any smarter after they graduate. They’re already approved! For the rest of their lives they smugly assume that they are granted intellectual credibility and thus never really need to think much more about anything.

    People who go to other schools tend to recognize how utterly worthless an undergraduate degree is in the first place, and work their balls off *after* college to gain experience/credibility/bona fides, etc. They have no laurels to rest on.

    This is really just a general rule of thumb, and only really applies to recent undergrads working in NYC in the 1990s. 🙂 so there’s that.

  14. I went to Michigan, (around the same time you did) and I did grad school at Yale, and one of the perks there was that I could also take undergrad classes as electives, which I did, which was fun because I know I would never have gotten in as an undergrad. I had some excellent professors at Yale, but in the discussion sections it was clear that the kids there were just as dumb as anywhere else. What they are there though are super motivated over-achievers. The difference between Ivy League and everywhere else is mainly motivational, if anything at all.

    1. Yes, but can they beat OSU?

    2. My friend experienced the same thing. He was an IR grad student and told me that the only difference between the undergrads and other schools that were close on the totem was the work ethic, plain and simple. He said they would literally transcribe entire lectures on their computer, condense them, and memorize them.

      It’s hard work. Just like pro athletes, in a way.

  15. I recall reading studies showing that Ivy League school’s quality had declined in parallel with education in general. In the Sixties, even in small towns you could take Latin and Calculus in high school. And not as advanced placement. Oh and this.…..gue-school

    1. Here’s the thing with small towns: there’s lots of ’em. You can find an anecdote to support anything you want. For example, my mom’s high school didn’t even go to Algebra II. Her brother has a Math PhD, which may or may not mean that learning higher math as a pubescent is largely a waste of time.

    2. Derpetologist once linked to this video and this video demonstrating the declining quality of the Ivy’s and education in general.

      1. One data point can’t show a decline.

        Also, I linked that first one several times before Derp ever commented.

      2. Ok, the grads in the first video were retarded, but was the Nozick at 0:16?

      3. WRT the second video, well, more evidence that Feynmann was right about scientific miseducation.

  16. I guess if it was easy everybody could do it.…..gue-School

  17. If you want a career in private industry, any good university will do, providing you select the correct course of study (hint: engineering).

    If you want to succeed in government, or want to work the revolving door for the big bucks, you’d best have an Ivy degree. It’s not sufficient, but it is almost necessary. Check out the c.v.’s of the senior folks at the State Department if you have any doubts.

  18. This essay was long on feels and short on facts, much like the silly essays he’s complaining about.

  19. Even though I had ridiculous LSAT score, I applied to certain schools knowing I wouldn’t get in because of my class rank at a particular quasi-Ivy for exactly the reasons the author lists. I was a middle-class kid amongst wanna-be investment bankers, and hated every minute of it. Never, ever went to class, yet the ones I did, and loved, I learned a ton. The author makes a very valid point about the technocracy and liberal arts and its true calling.

    Anyway, knowing I wouldn’t get into Yale Law (they’d waived the application fee because of my LSAT score, so what the hell…) I wrote their mandatory thousand-word essay about a girl who wanted to fuck me and made the entire essay a punchline joke about how my friends did a ton of coke in D.C. I always wondered what the look on the admission assholes’ faces was when they read that essay. I was out of my mind when I wrote it, of course, but that’s the beauty of it. Fuck ’em. If only one of them thought it was crazy, good for them.

    I also wrote every personal statement for every school about a prostitute/stripper I knew. Four pages long about Catholicism, confessions, and strippers. That was fun shit. Again, fuck ’em.

    1. You must still be tooting blow, because these three paragraphs are written horribly. If your essays were so disjointed and rambling, the admissions officer probably crumpled them up and tossed them after the first page.

      1. Nah, they’re fine.

        I got into Northwestern, dude. Laughs. Keep trying, though.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.