Are You an Excellent Sheep? A Chat with William Deresiewicz

“If you talked about class, you’d have to acknowledge that most of these students are in an extremely privileged class position, and then they would have to see themselves as being part of the problem and not part of the solution.”

In this episode, I’m joined by William (Bill) Deresiewicz. I reached out to Bill because I loved his book, Excellent Sheep, and thought it provided a fantastic heuristic for college students to evaluate whether or not they’re thinking for themselves.

It’s especially relevant now since the concept of not thinking for oneself and following the flock has spilled over into a lot of the social justice warrior and bigoteering behavior, where students lambast and assault people for their beliefs without taking the time to understand them.

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Improving your ability to think for yourself and why you should
  • Tackling the issues with rallying and free speech on campuses
  • How and why certain aspects of college have changed over the years
  • Improvising more when you don’t have a plan after college
  • If college is necessary for those going into trade

And a ton more. Please enjoy, and reach out to Bill on Twitter!

If you enjoyed our discussion of the problems with the college climate, you’d also enjoy my conversation with Angela Ma about depression on campus and how to manage it. Or if you want more on finding work you’re passionate about, listen to my conversation with Thomas Frank who has helped thousands of students do just that.

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Show Topics

1:10 – Intro to Bill and his thoughts on the protesting against speeches at various universities and him discussing the social justice warriors, political correctness, and privilege in colleges.

6:19 – Bill’s thoughts on students latching onto ideas and rallying since they may be lacking that from their studies and work. Also, Bill details why thinking for yourself more often is important.

9:04 – Learning to think for yourself more, Bill’s perspective on this, and how college education has changed.

12:40 – Bill speaking on why college education has changed over the last several decades and him going into detail on the competitive aspect of colleges.

16:15 – How to navigate the college system as a student, and some advice on how to choose the right education and get the most out of that education.

19:38 – Bill’s advice on the problem of not having a plan after graduation and speaking on the importance of learning to improvise more often in your career life.

22:13 – Discussing the issue with your education becoming obsolete within five to ten years or A.I. replacing your job.

25:25 – Bill’s thoughts on the popularity of Khan Academy, other alternative learning sites, and colleges in the future.

28:03 – Advice for those looking to self-educate outside of the classroom and advice for those who feel as though they aren’t learning as much as they should in the classroom.

30:48 – Is college is worth it for those not interested in the typical learning experience and who want to go into the trade field?

35:03 – Bill speaking about the other changes to the education system over the past several decades and his thoughts on the tenure system in colleges.

40:43 – How we should tackle the issue of free-speech and rallying in students, and help them think more for themselves.

43:11 – Bill’s recommendations for students wanting to get better at thinking for themselves and to improve their learning. Wrap up afterward.

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