Here are some of Deresiewicz’s key points in his words and ours (summary). The book contains much more than we report here and deserves to be read (maybe even with a book group of educators). Excellent Sheep provides a yummy meal of food for thought!
• “The system manufactures students who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.” Kindle, loc 47
• “A double major, a sport, a musical instrument, a couple of foreign languages, service work in distant corners of the globe, a few hobbies thrown in for good measure: they have mastered them all, …” Kindle, loc 78 When you look below the surface, however, “what you often find are toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression, of emptiness and aimlessness and isolation.” loc. 86 Endless hoop jumping, giving parents what they require and plan for — “the clubs, bands, projects, teams, APs, SATs, evenings, weekends, summers, coaches, tutors, “leadership,” “service”—left them no time, and no tools, to figure out what they want out of life, or even out of college.” loc. 128. They’ve learned to play the game of school, not use their minds well. Safety is key and discourages risk-taking and growth from failure.
• The “practicality police” (Kindle, 1016) have hijacked much of the common discourse about “education” and what it is for. “…athletics means no more now than physical training; music means technical proficiency; service means charity; leadership means climbing to the top. loc.: 771
• No wonder they’ve lost their souls. “…for what college ought to be providing but is not: for a larger sense of purpose and direction; for an experience at school that speaks to them as human beings, not bundles of aptitudes; for guidance in addressing the important questions of life; for simple permission to think about these things and a vocabulary with which to do so.” loc., 992
As we’ve said, there is a plethora of ideas here to be explored with and among educators. If one slips on the glasses of “What resonates in these pages for us as educators (not simply college professors)”, we’re certain you’ll discover and implement concrete ideas and protocols to reach a higher level of consciousness about learning and why it is important to a satisfying life.