Phi Beta Cons

Elite Colleges Are Not Really So Great

The key assumption made by people who insist on “affirmative action” (i.e. college admissions preferences for certain groups) is that getting into an elite institution is so good for “underrepresented” students that officials should bend their standards severely to admit them. Going to an “elite” college means getting an “elite” education, which will enable to poor and minorities to leap ahead, thus making the US a more “socially just” nation. Right?

For years, a number of contributors on this blog have argued that there isn’t necessarily anything great about going to an elite school. They are not necessarily ideal or even good learning environments. In this New Republic piece, William Deresiewicz argues strongly that parents should not send their children to Ivy League or other prestigious schools if they want them to get a solid education.

In a forthcoming Pope Center piece, I will joust with Deresiewicz over an irascible Chronicle Review piece he wrote last month, in which he slashed away at the motives of higher education critics and reformers. His NR piece, however, makes a very important point that will put him on the enemies list of affirmative action proponents.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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