Stress for Success: How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Ivies?

24 10 2007

How do you take their brand and shut it dow-wn?

How do you find a word that means the Ivies?

The liberal elite, overrated effetes and clowns?

(humming. . .)

Imagine a scholarly debate in which “hundreds of people cheer wildly as some crazy-haired guy calls for Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to be shut down. That’s right: closed entirely. Their campuses turned into luxury condos. Their students distributed evenly throughout the colleges of the Big Ten. Their endowments donated to charity, or used to purchase Canada. . .”

Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik, staff writers for The New Yorker, did it for entertainment on a recent Saturday night (instead of college football??) — all part of the magazine’s annual literary festival:

Mr. Gladwell . . . asserted that they have come to be valued as “consumption preferences” rather than places where people, you know, go to learn.

But more interesting than the debate itself was the audience reaction. Anti-Ivy proclamations were greeted with enthusiastic whoops. It was as if everyone had finally been given permission to voice their long-held antipathy toward the elite. It was a mob scene, or as close as you’re likely to get at a wine-and-cheese gathering on the Upper West Side.

It’s all part of a current Ivy backlash, according to Alexandra Robbins, author of The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids and Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power. Ms. Robbins thinks the mystique of the Ivy League is starting to wear thin — even though, as she acknowledges, it’s harder than ever to get into those colleges. . .

Thinking Parents out there may already be familiar with the Colfax family’s 1980s get-into-Harvard bible, “Homeschooling for Excellence: How to take charge of your child’s education and why you absolutely must.” I read it our first year homeschooling, when Favorite Daughter was five. Young Son was a newborn. As a “newbie” I was still swaddled in academic credentials and poring over curriculum standards, worse even than the average new homeschool parent due to my own “stress for success” education.

Like me, the Colfax dad was a derailed academic and activist, making a dramatic lifestyle change that affected his whole family. Read the rest of this entry »