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Exceptionalism

When second chances are only handed to the exceptional few, it exacerbates inequality and creates resentment. We are witnessing this more often than we care to admit: Ivy leagues, Wall Street and increasingly, Silicon Valley.

William Deresiewicz, a former Yale faculty member, explains the difference in culture between elite private schools and more open public ones in this deeply introspective essay:

There are due dates and attendance requirements at places like Yale, but no one takes them very seriously. Extensions are available for the asking; threats to deduct credit for missed classes are rarely, if ever, carried out. In other words, students at places like Yale get an endless string of second chances. Not so at places like Cleveland State. My friend once got a D in a class in which she’d been running an A because she was coming off a waitressing shift and had to hand in her term paper an hour late.

What good is an elite education if besides attaining lofty grades and a doorway to high life, its graduates learn nothing about the importance of a decent character and the ability to understand others? Our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers.

 

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