Education : Don’t send your kids to the Ivy League

As a first generation immigrant child having gone down the path of the French “Ivy League” rat race, as I read this old article from William Deresiewicz, I can’t help but reflect on my own experience of confusion, pressure to conform and lack of direction at the end of college. Sure enough, the badge of “grande ecole” seemed reassuringly comfortable to wear fresh out of school, as a guarantee that I will be “surviving successfully”. Looking back now, in no way did I experience these years of education as a profound opportunity to reflect and connect with my deeper purpose, which is so important to find meaning and fulfillment in everything we do, even and especially when life throws us a curveball.


As a leadership and executive coach today, like the people described in the article, a lot of my clients are poster children of success as broadly defined by our society : they lead large teams, they drive impact and are well financially rewarded for their hard work. In many ways, they live up to the expectations that have been put upon them from an early age and have built a strong “container” for their identity. We often meet when this “identity” they’ve so painstakingly crafted along the years is threatening to unravel, be it because of a “life quake”, a tough transition at work or a subtle intuition that they have reached the limits of what they were ready to sacrifice, mentally, emotionally and physically, to sustain that image of success. That is when the “real work” starts: the task within the task of finding out what we really are made of, meeting our strengths and failings with honesty and integrity, and discovering the deeper meaning behind what we do. I so wish, for our children and our society at large, that formal education could be an early container for this oh-so-important inner journey. 

From the author:

“Learning how to think is only the beginning, though. There’s something in particular you need to think about: building a self. The notion may sound strange. “We’ve taught them,” David Foster Wallace once said, “that a self is something you just have.” But it is only through the act of establishing communication between the mind and the heart, the mind and experience, that you become an individual, a unique being—a soul. The job of college is to assist you to begin to do that. Books, ideas, works of art and thought, the pressure of the minds around you that are looking for their own answers in their own ways.”

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