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Classical Education: The remedy to the resume conveyor belt

Mrs. Kate Rudolph
The American education system prioritizes prestigious college placement. While it is expected that high school students build impressive resumes to send off to impressive universities, many students have begun packing their resumes earlier and earlier. Now, middle school students are beginning to build up their college resumes in an attempt to out-do their classmates years before filling out college applications. According to Mrs. Hillary Short, the Lower School Dean of Faculty, this college application frenzy creates students who believe that “jumping through hoops matters, not actually developing who they are as a person or learning to love learning.”
In his book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite, William Deresiewicz explores and evaluates the issues he saw in the American education system as a professor at Yale University. Expecting his students to represent the best of the best, instead, he was faced with robots molded by a system obsessed with resume-packing and standardized test scores. They were not there because of any love of learning, but rather because they needed to “check off the box” of attending a prestigious university. Mrs. Short says that “these students saw their education as a commodity to be used and spent,” with little care for the content they were learning. Terrified and disheartened, Deresiewicz surveyed colleges, professors, and students to look for the solution to the conveyor belt culture in American education. Both Deresiewicz and Mrs. Short believe that “classical education is the antidote to the conveyor belt churning out pedigreed university graduates.”

The emphasis that classical education places on the liberal arts provides the way out of the educational mess in which our country now finds itself. Historically, the university system was centered around the liberal arts. Refocusing our country’s education system on the liberal arts will mold students who love learning for the sake of learning. This education not only creates well-rounded students, but also individuals who can make more meaningful contributions to society, allowing them to more authentically achieve the goals they set for themselves later in life. According to Mrs. Short, this formation becomes even more of a priority for students entering STEM fields. “You need that virtue formation when you are making decisions about human DNA genome mapping and Artificial Intelligence,” she says. “It matters more than ever that the people who have the technical know-how also know what it means to be good and just,” and a classical, liberal education provides exactly that.

This shift would require our country to go through a major change in perspective and priorities. However, Deresiewicz found that this kind of education already exists at the university level, just in colleges that you probably haven’t heard of. These colleges have smaller class sizes and students attend to learn content — not to simply check a box on their conveyor belt journey — and seek to understand and practice virtue.

Mrs. Short says that “as a humane letters major in undergrad, I can completely relate with the transition from thinking about marketability and productivity, to the wider, deeper, picture of what classical education can do. At first, I only viewed humane letters as a stepping stone to a higher degree.” Coming to a much broader understanding of what an education can be, she says “my eyes were really opened to the fact that education is not about marketability.” She then began to love learning for the sake of learning: “it’s a lifelong journey, and I’m glad it is. I don’t ever want it to end.”

Mrs. Short plans to use Deresiewicz’s book for a parent book club later this year. 
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