I saw this link via Nanopolitan. And, I must say the author’s arguments hit home rather well. As Abi says, some of them are broad-brush generalisations, but on the whole, he makes a lot of sense. For instance, when he says that people tend to look down upon others simply because they did not go a certain university, he successfully drives home an important point: that, unconsciously, graduates of elite institutions (I like to believe that Sciences Po is elite) look down upon those who do not "belong" there. I am guilty of that myself. I am proud I got into Sciences Po. But sometimes, I too have displayed that annoying arrogance of someone who is among, as Deresiewicz says, is among the "best and brightest." I am probably not. I am probably just very lucky. Or not even. I also agree that graduates of elite schools tend to judge themselves, and others, by numbers: SAT, GRE, GMAT scores.
In the Indian context, the equivalent is probably IIT and IIM. In this regard, I would like to point you to a brilliant post by Nita. (as always). It is a brilliant analysis of what IIM graduates are doing, how much they are getting paid, and what kinds of jobs they prefer. Beyond all this hype about the IITs and the IIMs, I would like to ask one question. What does an IIT graduate have that any good engineer from a decent engineering college does not? This is an honest question. I do not know. Any answers are welcome.
On a related note, I was rather surprised, even shocked to hear that many of my students have no idea how to write a CV. In fact, even those who are working have never written a CV because they were recruited on campus, and they simply had to fill up a form and take some technical tests. I do agree that BITS Pilani, the IITs and other institutions send out brilliant engineers. But, is brilliance a result of the college in which you studied? I know many people who come from nondescript and even unrecognised institutions who are capable of giving an IIT-grad a run for his money. I simply believe that excellence can exist anywhere, even in the slums. We are, as a society, too caught up in the rut of exams, degrees and marks to see that intelligence is unrelated to most or even all of these factors. What’s more? We are refusing to allow our children to exercise their fundamental right to dissent. Any difference of opinion with school, college or teachers is quickly suppressed. "Just write what is in the text book. Otherwise you will not get marks." These are the words I hear from parents of all ages, day in and day out.
This reluctance to question is so ingrained in the Indian psyche that my grandfather tells me I must not question the analysis that appears in newspapers because those writing for the media are obviously better qualified than me to talk. Pray, why must I shut up when I see a journalist talking nonsense? Because the writer is a professor at JNU? No. I will not shut up. As long as I can substantiate my arguments, I have a right to say what I please. What people like my grandfather conveniently forget, is that we, as Indians, have a right to disagree. Even if we are engineers and not social scientists or strategic analysts. In short, we Indians give more respect to a piece of paper than to real intelligence. We must get out of this. If we want to innovate rather than replicate, we must encourage dissent. There is nothing like a good argument to foster new ideas. We must learn this fundamental truth for our own good.