The Magazine

Learn and Live

Doth this ex-Ivy Leaguer protest too much?

Sep 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 01 • By WILLIAM H. PRITCHARD
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This is what may result from reading Pride and Prejudice or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, if you read “alertly, with your mind and not just with glands.” But how to subordinate or subdue those glands, for want of a more inclusive term, to the claims of reason and of art? Newman again: “Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man.” 

He was speaking about the failure of even a liberally educated person to deal with original sin, the passion and the pride of human beings. Against such forces, education may well not “work.” Even if you spare today’s young the glamour of original sin, they have their own giants to contend with. For all the strong truths in the first half of Deresiewicz’s title—“The Miseducation of the American Elite”—its second half, “and the Way to a Meaningful Life,” carries with it some whistling in the dark.

William H. Pritchard is Henry Clay Folger professor of English at Amherst College.