Just a Convo Between Two Great Pals

OK, not really. As much as I wish he were my BFF, Bill Deresiewicz, author of A Jane Austen Education and the just-releasing-right-now (and hotly controversial) Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful LIfe, is not exactly my pal per se (YET), but he did humor me with a long and wide-ranging interview recently, some of which made it into my latest article for Slate.

For those of you who read the excerpt in the New Republic and have your drawers in a bunch about it, I’d highly recommend taking a look at the whole book in context, because a lot of the BUT BUT BUT BUT BUTs I had are actually addressed in it quite thoroughly and fervently. There really isn’t an aspect of higher ed that Deresiewicz hasn’t thought through really well, and although his critique focuses much of the time on elite institutions like the ones that shaped him (and the one where he taught), much of it applies to the decline and fall of American higher education across the board. (And yes, he gives a VERY long shout-out to all of us adjuncts out there, in case you are wondering).

At any rate, when I talked to him I found him exceedingly thoughtful and genial, and I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

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5 thoughts on “Just a Convo Between Two Great Pals

  1. So, a question: Have you ever seen some of the things that Bill Deresiewicz talks about at the non-Ivy campuses where you’ve taught? I have, and I’ve never been close to the Ivy League. I’m at a state school far from the coasts, and I’m surprised by how few of my students have an internal plan for what they want to do with their lives.

    Also, I loved BD’s critique of extracurricular activities in admissions. Working for minimum wage as a teenager is no joke, and you can learn a lot of important things in that kind of job. It should count for something in admissions, at least as much as charity tourism to a warm and stable country.

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  2. Eye-opening piece. I followed some links and ended up signing the anti-adjunct petition on change.org. I am still amazed at how much worse things have gotten since I quit decades ago, but I guess it only makes sense that as the economy becomes increasingly unbalanced, the universities have too. I also guess (and hope) you realize that this is a far better way to spend your life than adjuncting. I thought back to all the trivial things I’ve written that have seen print over the years and how they all had many more readers than my dissertation (including technical manuals and marketing pieces and letters to the editor). By many more, I mean more than two. You have also inspired me to stick my unpublished dissertation on Wikipedia. There’s a lot of highly competent basic research in it that anyone interested in its obscure subject (a once famous but now very minor Victorian-Edwardian playwright) would find useful.

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