Are Ivy League Students Egocentric Zombies?


In July 2014, former Yale English professor William Deresiewicz wrote an article on New Republic titled “Don’t send your kids to the Ivy League”, in which he wrote about how Ivy League schools are turning young people into overly competitive self-centered zombies who try to climb to or maintain an elitist status. Students aren’t taught to be curious learners who dare to think beyond boundaries, which is what he believes education should be about. Instead, in the Ivy, students are taught to care more about their success and resume building, and of the ways of the social elites. Ivy students are shaped to be the same breed of khaki wearing, Chardonnay drinking robots. To him, this is  not what college is about.

Deresiewicz quoted one girl whose boyfriend had gone to Yale who said that:

“Before he started college, he spent most of his time reading and writing short stories. Three years later, he’s painfully insecure, worrying about things my public-educated friends don’t give a second thought to, like the stigma of eating lunch alone and whether he’s “networking” enough. No one but me knows he fakes being well-read by thumbing through the first and last chapters of any book he hears about and obsessively devouring reviews in lieu of the real thing. He does this not because he’s incurious, but because there’s a bigger social reward for being able to talk about books than for actually reading them.

On top of that, he argued that Ivy League ‘s esteemed reputation comes from its social elitism and not from its value for education, and this is why it attracts the same mold of kids who dedicate their lives to be a part of this elite community; those with tons of extracurricular activities, those who do service learning for the sole purpose of looking good to admission committee, and those who have spent their lives practicing how to play the piano like Mozart without even liking classical music. I’m sure we all know that there are parents who would pay thousands of dollars for tutorials to make sure that their kids are going to get accepted. These kids have become zombies in their pursuit of elitism as they lose their passion and interest in learning about the real world outside the Ivory Tower.

Deresiewicz argued that if one wants a real education, they should go to a small liberal arts college.

The article has been shared for over 200,000 times on Facebook alone and received so many responses, both affirmative and negative. One of the criticisms he got was from Newsweek ( who published an article about the schools that New Republic editors and writers went to, showing that the majority of them went to an Ivy League institution, which makes New Republic sound hypocritical for having published Deresiewicz’ article in the first place.

Later on, Deresiewicz wrote another article where he wrote that all the criticisms he received further reaffirmed his belief about Ivy League’s elitism.

Hanna Sender/International Business Times

Are Ivy League students egocentric zombies? Do we only care about our own success and become soulless human beings upon graduating?

Sure, here at the Ivy League Lifestyle, we write about *drum roll* the Ivy League lifestyle, while trying to make fun of its validity. Without the unique culture of the Ivy League, we would not have had the idea for this website in the first place! That being said, we acknowledge this culture of elitism at the Ivy and it has in fact inspired many of our satires. We believe that it is always good to make fun of ourselves once in a while and not get too offended by petty things, and to laugh a little!

Also, as an Ivy student myself, while I see that there are people like what Deresiewicz described roaming around my campus halls, I would argue that it depends on which Ivy League school the student comes from, I go to Cornell and here on my campus, we try so hard to be an egalitarian, diverse society (as reflected by its admission process) and most people here are really nice and genuine.

I would assume that the author’s teaching experience at Yale – being exposed to a different set of students – had affected his perspective of all Ivy League institutions, which isn’t fair. I have heard of some nasty things about Yale students and choose to not believe them before I see them with my own eyes.

Is there a culture of elitism and over-competitiveness in your school?

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Are Ivy kids just egocentric zombies, after all?

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