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Excellent Sheep

256 pages, 2015

economics & politics

economics & politics

987 books


711 books

As a professor at Yale, William Deresiewicz saw something that troubled him deeply. His students, some of the nation’s brightest minds, were adrift when it came to the big questions.

How to think critically and creatively, and how to find a sense of purpose. Now he argues that elite colleges are turning out conformists without a compass.

Excellent Sheep takes a sharp look at the high-pressure conveyor belt that begins with parents and counselors who demand perfect grades and culminates in the skewed applications Deresiewicz saw firsthand as a member of Yale’s admissions committee.

As schools shift focus from the humanities to “practical” subjects like economics, students are losing the ability to think independently. It is essential, says Deresiewicz, that college be a time for self-discovery, when students can establish their own values and measures of success in order to forge their own paths.

He features quotes from real students and graduates he has corresponded with over the years, candidly exposing where the system is broken and offering clear solutions on how to fix it.

Rethinking Education

In Excellent Sheep, William Deresiewicz challenges the traditional education system. He believes that schools should not just focus on grades and test scores, but also on developing critical thinking skills and creativity. It's a call to action for everyone to rethink how we educate our children.

The Importance of Liberal Arts

Deresiewicz emphasizes the importance of a liberal arts education. He argues that it helps students to explore different fields, find their passion, and develop a broader perspective on life. So, if you're thinking about what to study, you might want to check out liberal arts.

The Pressure of Perfection

The book explores the immense pressure students face to be perfect. Deresiewicz argues that this pressure can lead to mental health issues and a lack of self-discovery. It's a reminder for us to take a step back and remember that it's okay not to be perfect.

The Value of Failure

In Excellent Sheep, failure is not seen as a setback but as a learning opportunity. Deresiewicz encourages us to embrace failure and learn from it. So, the next time you face a setback, remember it's an opportunity to grow.

The Role of Universities

Deresiewicz criticizes universities for becoming more like businesses focused on profit rather than institutions for learning. He believes universities should foster intellectual curiosity and personal growth. It's a wake-up call for universities to reassess their role in society.

Quotes 5

Excellent Sheep is a powerful, passionate indictment of the current education system. It's a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of our society.

Andrew DelbancoAndrew Delbanco - American literary critic

Deresiewicz's book is a brave and necessary call to arms for a radical rethinking of our educational system.

Mark EdmundsonMark Edmundson - University professor, author

Excellent Sheep is a searing critique of the transactional mentality and risk-aversion that characterizes modern education. It's a wake-up call for all of us.

Naomi WolfNaomi Wolf - Feminist writer, activist

Deresiewicz's Excellent Sheep is a profound exploration of what it means to be a student, a parent, and a teacher in our transactional, winner-take-all society.

Daniel PinkDaniel Pink - Author, motivational speaker

Excellent Sheep is a compelling and urgent call to reevaluate our current path. It's a book that every parent, student, and teacher should read.

Rebecca MeadRebecca Mead - Journalist, author
Andrew DelbancoMark EdmundsonNaomi WolfDaniel PinkRebecca Mead


Bryan Callen

Bryan Callen

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Nat Eliason

Nat Eliason