Reality Check: Not All Elite College Grads Want to Work in Finance or Consulting

More

David Brooks writes that ivy grads are singularly focused on elite careers. But does any data back this up?

fun percent-body.jpgReuters

The New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote that (young) people today are "less good at using the vocabulary of moral evaluation, which is less about what sort of career path you choose than what sort of person you are." I'm not sure if he has evidence for this assertion -- or precisely what he means by it -- so I thought I'd throw it out to thoughtful Atlantic readers and gather some feedback.

Brooks pointed out that graduates of elite universities -- Stanford, Harvard and the like -- tend to gravitate toward elite entry level opportunities in finance and consulting. Many, he writes, "have a blinkered view of their options," showing "little interest in or awareness of the ministry, the academy, government service or the zillion other sectors."  One wonders how many actual recent college grads Brooks has spoken with in recent months. Does he really believe that academia, for instance, is ripe with opportunities for young scholars? Is he unaware that Government has shed 2.6 percent of its jobs over the past three years, marking the greatest reduction in history? Does he truly believe that graduates of Harvard and Stanford do not understand that not all social workers are good people, or that not all investment bankers are bad people? 

As a teacher of the "young people" to whom Brooks alludes, I can vouch that they seem to be every bit as good at making these so-called "moral evaluations" as were their parents.  What's changed is their realistic options -- and their debt load. When Brooks (and I) graduated from university, the world seemed -- and was -- ripe with opportunity to "do the right thing."  Today, not so much. What Brooks failed to mention in today's column is that last year 18 percent of Harvard's graduating class applied for a gig with Teach for America.    Which makes one wonder: who, precisely, is blinkered? 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Ellen Ruppel Shell is the co-director of the Graduate Program in Science Journalism at Boston University. She is the author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon About the Toys in Your Cereal Box

The story of an action figure and his reluctant sidekick, who trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

From This Author

Just In