Friday, August 8, 2008

Of education..and clipping wings...

I got this article in my mail as a forward. I am not the kind of person who usually bothers with forwards, more often than not, they directly hit my trash can. Curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on it. The title read: The disadvantages of an elite education. That being interesting enough, add to it that its written by a student and now professor at Yale.

You can read the article here

The article touches many topics, most of which I identified with. Though it is set in the American system and the examples are all location specific, I found it to be as indicative of our B-schools as possible. There are a lot of things I agree with including the fact that it makes us socially incapable but this blog is about another point.

I always felt that I was apart from the crowd, did not fit in because my idea of the life I want to lead is not the typical management student’s dream. I don’t dream of being a CEO or running a $40 billion enterprise. I don’t see the point in traveling the world if you don’t have time to stop and smell the flowers, I rather backpack. But reading this made me realize that I am not alone.

It says “If one of the disadvantages of an elite education is the temptation it offers to mediocrity, another is the temptation it offers to security. When parents explain why they work so hard to give their children the best possible education, they invariably say it is because of the opportunities it opens up. But what of the opportunities it shuts down? An elite education gives you the chance to be rich—which is, after all, what we’re talking about—but it takes away the chance not to be. Yet the opportunity not to be rich is one of the greatest opportunities with which young Americans have been blessed. We live in a society that is itself so wealthy that it can afford to provide a decent living to whole classes of people who in other countries exist (or in earlier times existed) on the brink of poverty or, at least, of indignity. You can live comfortably in the United States as a schoolteacher, or a community organizer, or a civil rights lawyer, or an artist—that is, by any reasonable definition of comfort. You have to live in an ordinary house instead of an apartment in Manhattan or a mansion in L.A.; you have to drive a Honda instead of a BMW or a Hummer; you have to vacation in Florida instead of Barbados or Paris, but what are such losses when set against the opportunity to do work you believe in, work you’re suited for, work you love, every day of your life?

Yet it is precisely that opportunity that an elite education takes away. How can I be a schoolteacher—wouldn’t that be a waste of my expensive education? Wouldn’t I be squandering the opportunities my parents worked so hard to provide? What will my friends think? How will I face my classmates at our 20th reunion, when they’re all rich lawyers or important people in New York? And the question that lies behind all these: Isn’t it beneath me? So a whole universe of possibility closes, and you miss your true calling.”

When I took a sabbatical to rethink my life and find a direction I wanted to follow rather than go through the corporate rut, within a month of doing so these same doubts found their way back into my head. The fact that I am well educated, rather than spurring me on, pulled me back into the race to make money. It was hinted and sometimes blatantly stated that it would be a complete waste of my education if I did not use it and work in a corporate job. The perception of my intelligence, my standing as an individual and the entire purpose of my life suddenly changed.

I write all this here as an attempt to remind myself of who I am and the way I want to live…hoping that I will find it in me to tear away from all this and be content.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the classic Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in our lives. Do we live to conform to norms or can we choose our way. Easy to preach but very hard to practice. Guess this is something we all have to fight within ourselves...sometimes reminds of the last company that you were associated with :-)


Unknown said...

justifying to others something u believe is right for you, good enough for you is a daunting and often thankless task. I took a 'sabbatical' for the same reason-not willing to be a part of that culture anymore - to look at things from a slower pace and life's perspective. Not once have I, yet, regretted that decision, thankfully and most probably because I have a extremely supportive husband who makes a decent living for both of us and who is happy with whatever we make-on 1 or 2 incomes-and is willing to change life strategies if Im convinced that's what we need to do. As of now, discovering more about things around us, our pasts as human beings and how that can change or affect our future, spiritualism, and so much other stuff occupies my time that I have no time or inclination for the afternoon siestas I so adored! I do more than just smell the flowers-I smell the scent of the leaves on the trees when spring arrives, the diff colors of summer and fall and the diff chirps of the birds that make nests in our vents at home-all signs of nature and of life that just like us is just trying to make the best of what we're lucky enough to be bestowed with-Life and our senses.
If only the majority of the world would think of all this and more there would not be Gitmo and Taliban, and the awful atrocities of 'Ethnic Cleansing' and all those sordid excuses of trying to prove someone is superior to the other....
Everyone needs to watch ' The Jounery of Man' the genealogy project covered by national geographic----we are all related---and our journey began in Africa-Its been proven by DNA-its in our DNA! just about 10 of our ancestors more than 2000 generations back left Africa and trekked along coastlines to populate the whole world... n now so many of us are hell bent on destroying it!
Take a break people-Chill and Live!

B2 said...

I would start by saying that neither Yale nor Columbia could be considered elite schools even by the far stretch of the imagination - elitist may be but elite certainly not.

Having said that, I can see what the article is trying to highlight and can appreciate that. Life is more than chasing bigger and bigger successes which can be never ending.

The disadvantage of elite schools that that the article does not talk about is everlasting and never-ending peer pressure!

Boy, one could be very successful in the eyes of most - making loads of money, mansion of a house, expensive cars, world wide vacations and trips galore, wonderful family, great kids, etc. etc. all by the early to mid 30s.

But if your classmates and peers have founded the likes of Yahoo, Google, etc. etc., you just feel like a total failure for not having created a similar legacy! ... and that's tough to live with ...

So watch out before deciding to go to Stanford, Berkeley or MIT (some of the real elite schools).

hmm.. couldn't I learn from the second paragraph in this post??

Harnoor Channi-Tiwary said...

:) B2 Bhaiya, I like the part about watching out before deciding to go for these schools :)!!!

Hi anonymous...I guess choosing our way sometimes seems so daunting a task and so unnacceptable to people around us that we end up conforming!

Ras - good for you...

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