A couple of quotes:
Elite institutions are supposed to provide a humanistic education, but the first principle of humanism is Terence’s: “nothing human is alien to me.” The first disadvantage of an elite education is how very much of the human it alienates you from.
But if you’re afraid to fail, you’re afraid to take risks, which begins to explain the final and most damning disadvantage of an elite education: that it is profoundly anti-intellectual. This will seem counterintuitive. Aren’t kids at elite schools the smartest ones around, at least in the narrow academic sense? Don’t they work harder than anyone else—indeed, harder than any previous generation? They are. They do. But being an intellectual is not the same as being smart. Being an intellectual means more than doing your homework.
Being an intellectual means, first of all, being passionate about ideas—and not just for the duration of a semester, for the sake of pleasing the teacher, or for getting a good grade.
What happens when busyness and sociability leave no room for solitude? The ability to engage in introspection, I put it to my students that day, is the essential precondition for living an intellectual life, and the essential precondition for introspection is solitude. They took this in for a second, and then one of them said, with a dawning sense of self-awareness, “So are you saying that we’re all just, like, really excellent sheep?” Well, I don’t know. But I do know that the life of the mind is lived one mind at a time: one solitary, skeptical, resistant mind at a time. The best place to cultivate it is not within an educational system whose real purpose is to reproduce the class system.
Interesting to read alongside The New Learning That Failed by Victor Davis Hanson (HT Melissa).
For an alternative to conventional education, elite or not, there is Escape from Skepticism by Christopher Derrick, which I usually reread almost every summer since I got the book when my oldest was applying to Thomas Aquinas College. My daughter is reading the book right now, so I can't excerpt, but she has been reading aloud passages to me; and one of the things it said was that students came to elite universities expecting to find wisdom, and instead found professors even more doubtful of what mattered than they were themselves.
Also, I'm sure most homeschoolers have read this one before, and maybe I've even linked to it, but this article In a Class by Themselves is about homeschoolers entering Stanford.
While I'm on the college trail, one more that I read recently and found interesting, though it doesn't have much to do with the topic on the surface -- it is a Childlight guest blog about "Transitioning from School to Life"
The latest Stanford numbers show a rise in homeschooler applications.... So why is the University interested? Admission officers sum it up in two words: intellectual vitality.
It's hard to define, but they swear they know it when they see it. It's the spark, the passion, that sets the truly exceptional student--the one driven to pursue independent research and explore difficult concepts from a very early age--apart from your typical bright kid. Stanford wants students who have it.
Looking very closely at homeschoolers is one way to get more of those special minds, the admission office has discovered. As Reider explains it: "Homeschooled students may have a potential advantage over others in this, since they have consciously chosen and pursued an independent course of study."
Indeed, when he and his colleagues read applications last year, they gave the University's highest internal ranking for intellectual vitality to two of the nine homeschoolers admitted. And an astounding four homeschoolers earned the highest rating for math--something reserved for the top 1 to 2 percent of the applicant pool.
It seems to talk a bit about the "transition year" that many students are taking nowadays (you see? a whole different subject) and how to redeem that quiet waiting season. I think I liked reading it because it doesn't just assume that you have to rocket into the tertiary education world (or into the workforce) propelled by your own momentum:
There’s plenty to do with a graduated student–developing good habits, taking in art and culture with them, encouraging them to think out their beliefs, training them in life skills, doing educational reading, letting them practice decision-making with their growing freedom. If the interim while waiting for adult life is grasped as a final season of preparation, then the time between graduation and the next step won’t be wasted. Well spent, it’s an opportunity to teach a student how to really live.