'Ivy Retardation' Curse of Elites

Inflated self-worth, narrow view of smarts disadvantage of life at top
By Kate Rockwood,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2008 5:09 AM CDT
Told repeatedly they're "the best and the brightest," students with elite educations develop an inflated sense of self-worth, writes William Deresiewicz.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Its advantages are undeniable, but an elite education can also cause a crippling case of “Ivy retardation,” as William Deresiewicz realized while struggling, despite fluency in several languages, to make small talk with his blue-collar plumber in Boston. “The best and the brightest” develop an inflated sense of self-worth and are trained to see the lesser-educated as inferior, no matter their intelligence, he writes in American Scholar.

These elites learn to value only a narrow, analytic form of education, and diversity at the schools is limited to ethnicity, rarely class. The result is a homogenous pool of graduates untrained to interact with regular people—remember John Kerry? "I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to elite colleges, often precisely for reasons of class," writes Deresiewicz. "I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to college at all."