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Crazy U March 6, 2011

Posted by federalist in Education.
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Daniel Akst reviews Andrew Ferguson’s new book on admissions at elite colleges, appropriately titled Crazy U.

The most darkly humorous aspect of this often hilarious book is its depiction of an admissions process that corrupts everything it touches. It’s a process that discourages reticence by requiring students to write revealing and disingenuous personal essays; discourages thrift by regarding parental savings as fair game in the financial-aid evaluation; discourages intellectual curiosity by encouraging students to pursue grades rather than knowledge; and discourages honesty by transforming adolescence into a period of cynical calculation.

Akst reiterates arguments I have frequently made against higher education:

Most students (and their parents) have no clear idea why a university is the reflexive next stop after high school, and yet roughly 70% of American high-school graduates go on to college. Are they supposed to marinate themselves in the best that has been thought and written? Is the point to learn how to think? To gain marketable skills? To make social connections? Or merely to signal to potential employers and spouses that here is a person with the patience and cleverness to navigate a great deal of folderol on the way to a degree? Although nobody can quite agree on what college is for, Americans and their leaders have embraced higher education with cult-like devotion—which is one reason the cost of tuition at many institutions has climbed into the stratosphere.

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