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Disgruntled Former Ivy League Professor Causes Controversy With Book About “Human Sheep”

It often happens that university alumni have strong ties to their alma mater. But one book author has the potential of offending them.

William Deresiewicz wrote a book that was recently released. The book, called “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life,” has a blurb on Amazon that gives readers a reason why this author’s views should be trusted.

In this blurb, readers learn that Deresiewicz is a direct eyewitness to the student behaviors that he saw as a professor and a member of the Yale University admissions committee. He also criticizes what he sees as an insufficient education that Yale University offers and focuses that criticism on Ivy League schools in general.

Reactions to this controversial book

Nathan Heller, who graduated from Harvard University and writes for the New Yorker, stated that although Deresiewicz’s intentions make him admirable, his book is not the greatest thing since sliced bread. As a person who studied history and literature, this news writer does not fit the stereotype of someone who only wanted to study fields that would earn him a job at a hedge fund.

Steven Pinker, who writes for the New Republic and teaches psychology at Harvard, wrote as a concluding thought that elite universities should try to admit a lot more applicants based on “academic aptitude.” However, he also wrote in the article that the reason why Ivy League graduates have a higher chance of getting well-paid jobs than the best people coming out of less-reputed universities is because employers are not only looking for intelligent people. They are also looking for people who can combine their smarts with a lot of “self-discipline.” In other words, their ability to be the kind of person companies can depend on, especially when task-related problems come up.

Pinker also wrote that he didn’t find the generalization of Ivy League students accurate, even going so far as to call Deresiewicz’s description of those students defamatory. Because Deresiewicz is taking his ideas on an Ivy League tour, the current members of those communities have the chance to interact with this man face-to-face. The Harvard Crimson had an article about the book author participating in a talk with deans of the university’s different schools. The tone in that article was polite, but the Yale Daily News reflected negative responses from many of its quoted respondents.

Where do geeks fit in?

Ivy League students are expected to do a lot of things, but elite schools aren’t only designed to focus on learning and reflecting on the ever-mysterious self. And that approach to learning is comparable to the way geeks acquire knowledge at any stage in life. Although being smart doesn’t necessarily equate into being a geek, being able to know a lot and still have fun are important components of defining geek culture. Talking about hazy philosophical ideas outside of the classroom is stimulating, but only for 15 minutes.

And in geek culture, really smart people stand out in stories, such as Mizuno Ami from the Sailor Moon series. In popular culture, famous people who graduated from Ivy League schools can come off as geeks, but that definitely seems to be the case with Harvard graduates. Music bands, such as Incubus and Weezer, give off the impression that they’re geek musicians, especially when Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger and Weezer member Rivers Cuomo attended Harvard. Mo Rocca, who is known for his food journalism, graduated from Harvard as well.


Even though Deresiewicz ruffled many feathers with his book, there still exists the notion that universities are supposed to help all kinds of people, whether they’re jocks or well-rounded people who happen to be smart.