The subtitle to William Deresiewicz’ August cover story is “how college sold its soul to the market.” (Click here to read the full essay.) Deresiewicz is the author of “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life” (Free Press). While a professor at Yale, Deresiewicz said he was troubled that universities are turning out “conformists without a compass.”
He expands on this theme in the Harper’s essay, arguing that universities are reducing their mission to slogans and “values” such as leadership.
The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers. I published a book last year that said that, by and large, elite American universities no longer provide their students with a real education, one that addresses them as complete human beings rather than as future specialists — that enables them, as I put it, to build a self or (following Keats) to become a soul. Of all the responses the book aroused, the most dismaying was this: that so many individuals associated with those institutions said not, ‘Of course we provide our students with a real education,’ but rather,’What is this ‘real education’ nonsense, anyway?’