Monday, September 14, 2015

How college admissions system builds cynicism

Beyond the junior careerism, the directionless ambition, the risk aversion, and the Hobbesian competitiveness, the [college admissions] system cultivates a monumental cynicism. Whatever the motives out of which they were established, the old WASP admissions criteria actually meant something. Athletics were thought to build character—courage and selflessness and team spirit. The arts embodied an ideal of culture. Service was designed to foster a public-minded ethos in our future leaders. Leadership itself was understood to be a form of duty. Now it's all become a kind of rain dance that is handed down from generation to generation, an empty set of rituals known only to propitiate the gods. Kids do them because they know that they're supposed to, not because they, or anybody else, actually believes in them. . . . The process takes activities that used to be ends in themselves and reduces them to means. . . .

Experience itself has been reduced to instrumental function, via the college essay. From learning to commodify your experiences for the application, the next step has been to seek out experiences in order to have them to commodify.
William Deresiewicz, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life (New York: Free Press, 2014), pp. 56-57

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