Sunday, July 10, 2016

Completed: Excellent Sheep


I never wrote up a preview post for Excellent Sheep, but I'll just give you a quick overview of how this came to be on my shelf. The HOW it ended up there is pretty easy: My friend Liz is a college counselor, and she and I talked about reading this book together a few years ago when it came out...but then things fell by the wayside and I never got around to it.

The WHY for this book is pretty obvious by just glancing at the subheading (which, come on, dude, get ahold of yourself!) says it all about why it would be of interest in my particular field: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. The question of whether or not kids are prepared for life and college is pretty relevant to my current line of work because of the school I'm at and the families we serve. Even then, the word "elite" makes me cringe, but this is definitely a  book that is marketing itself to a particular class of people. Whatever.

Basic premise of the book: Super rich parents are churning out kids who are automatons who only want achievements that are determined by their parents, and they are unable to think for themselves. They are afraid of failure and don't know how to take risks. They've been taught that achievement is the only thing that matters.

My thoughts on this book are pretty muddled, honestly. But that's probably because the book itself is pretty messy. My biggest complaint is that the author doesn't seem to have that much control over himself---he is constantly shifting the audience he's addressing. At times, he addresses young people directly, urging them to think for themselves and do what they want. But it's such a bizarre fiction. No *kid* is going to read this book! It's all finger wagging and smugness. I mean, how could any kid take seriously the "don't worry so much about where you go to college" from a guy who works at the Ivy League?!?! Then there are the times it seems his real audience are these controlling, wealthy parents---but even then, are they reading this book? They don't want to hear what they're doing is wrong. If a parent agreed with the premise of this book, they probably would have no reason to read it! And if a parent disagreed with the premise, they'd never bother with it. It's preachy! I honestly think the *real* audience for this book are for the faculty of exclusive colleges. It's sort of this back-slapping reassurance that parents and society are the real bad guys, instead of having the faculty and administrators of exclusive colleges look at all the ways they enable and benefit from the college admissions arms race.

Honestly, this book was sort of annoying. It's not that it's bad---it's just that it's all rehashed. The question of what we're raising our kids to do is a fascinating and important conversation, but this book didn't feel like it made all that many interesting or even new points. I could name other books that cover the same territory and seemed more urgent, revelatory, or interesting.

Meh. Not too into this one.

1 comment:

  1. I hate it when a book does not seem to know who it is addressing. That is like, the #1 rule of writing ("Who is your audience?") especially for instructional material, which, in a sense, this book *could be*. You gotta identify that right from the start, maybe pin up a picture of that person on your bulletin board the whole time you are writing, and check yourself constantly. Otherwise, your message is going to miss the mark.

    Bummer that that was such a problem with this book, cause otherwise the topic is very interesting. I think it would take a lot of skill to address any of this without getting preachy and... it doesn't sound like this guy made it.