Off the Mark
Frank Shushok, Jr.
“…Although I don’t have any, I love reading the bumper stickers people put on their cars. Fair warning, bumper sticker community—you’re a traffic hazard! I’ve come dangerously short of several traffic accidents trying to get close enough to read your cars. I advise larger font for all you folks trying to make a statement. I recently encountered one of these stickers that I can’t stop rolling around in my head. It said “You don’t have to believe everything you think.” Given the absurd things that go through my mind, this was great news. It also got me thinking about why people believe things that really aren’t true. If you’re like me, you carry along a boatload of myths handed down to you from who knows where: don’t swim for an hour after eating; don’t swallow gum or else it will stay in your stomach for seven years; cold weather makes you sick. At the end of the day, embracing these sorts of myths does no harm, except you believe something that isn’t true. But in education, systems of erroneous belief may change the course of a person’s life, not to mention the trajectories of families and societies…“
William Deresiewicz Talks with Executive Editor, Frank Shushok, Jr. about His Book, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite & the Way to a Meaningful Life
Frank Shushok, Jr., and William Deresiewicz
Although William Deresiewicz was writing about elite higher education in America in Excellent Sheep, the response to the book taught him that the pressure of college admissions affects all types of educational institutions in America and, increasingly, around the world. In this interview, he shares his concerns about higher education as career preparation, the underfunding of public education, and the decentering of the teacher from the educational experience. He suggests that students work hard and explore their interests and that those concerned about higher education organize to have greater impact.
Schreiner questions the satisfying, yet ultimately worrying, story of grit—students succeeding from their own perseverance regardless of personal, social, or ﬁnancial obstacles. Her concern centers around the student as the sole criterion for success, ignoring the beneﬁ ts of systemic privilege and how it can support grit in privileged students. She notes that the research does not support the malleability of grit—that it can be fostered in individuals—and offers her concept of a thriving ideology as an alternative that can be cultivated in students, faculty, staff, and the institution as a whole.
Perry Glanzer, Jonathan Hill, and Byron Johnson
Perry L. Glanzer, Jonathan P. Hill, and Byron R. Johnson wanted to ﬁ nd out if students searching for meaning are served by higher education in their quests. They discovered that students turn to their peers for discussions of meaning much more than the adults in their lives. Many students mentioned religious and service-focused groups as providing space for these peer discussions. Since this limits the number and type of students having these kinds of conversations, Glanzer, Hill, and Johnson suggest that educators focus on “big questions” from a meaning-making perspective to reach to a wider variety of students.
Robert A. Bonfiglio shares his concerns about the current popularity of the concept of grit or resilience. While grit has value in helping students overcome obstacles, he is particularly concerned with the focus on the individual it implies. It puts the onus on individual students to develop personal traits and devalues the importance of relatedness and community to student success. Prioritizing personal achievement, as he suggests grit does, may also come at the expense of cultivating empathy and an understanding of our responsibility to others as members of a community