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Editorial: We are not excellent sheep

Brown in no way conforms to the paradigm presented by William Deresiewicz in his book, “Excellent Sheep.” Though Deresiewicz conceded in his lecture that Brown is halfway toward promoting and perpetuating a liberal arts system, we firmly believe that the University is uniquely positioned within the realm of higher education and, through the New Curriculum, allows students to explore the gamut of academic spheres, devoid of post-graduate pressures. Though we agree that there exists an increasingly dangerous pre-professional phenomenon festering in the ‘elite’ cadre of universities, the foundation of the Brown education operates in a contrarian mode with respect to the aforementioned situation and truly captures the essence of a liberal arts education.

In his work, Deresiewicz presents a critique of the current structure of American higher education in funneling undergraduate students into a limited collection of professions, most prominently finance and consulting. Harvard — undoubtedly the preeminent benchmark in higher ed — sent 31 percent of its most recent graduating class into these two fields, according to the the Crimson’s 2014 Commencement Issue. Though this recent figure falls below historical peaks, Deresiewicz argues that even this percentage is a point of significant concern and speaks to students’ collective need for security eclipsing ‘true’ interest. We, too, are worried that practicality is progressively overshadowing intellectual curiosity within the collegiate environment.

While Deresiewicz targets the Ivy League in his critical analysis, this blanket generality does not account for the variance in the academic undergirding of these eight institutions, a point particularly cogent with regard to Brown. Unlike the other Ivy institutions, Brown’s New Curriculum affords students the opportunity to engage in pure academic exploration, without the need to fill general departmental requirements. This systematic difference allows students to delve deeply into particular academic spheres or alternatively, gain a broad understanding of many. In no way does this model conform to a sense of pre-professionalism. According to The Herald’s 2014 Spring Poll, 50 percent of students claim they are not concerned that their concentration will hinder their ability to find a job after graduation, a statistic that undercuts the general claim of the need for practical or relevant skills.

Though Deresiewicz said that Brown was halfway to achieving a liberal arts model, we assert that this is a dramatic underestimation and that the true mechanics of a Brown education allows the individual to gain a sense of self, isolated from the pressures of post-graduate pursuits. We urge the University to continue to promote its current model of education, disjointed from broader job market prospects, and to maintain its clear alignment with the liberal arts.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board, led by Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15. Send comments to


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