Why Are American Colleges Obsessed With ‘Leadership’? | The Atlantic (2014)

Why Are American Colleges Obsessed With ‘Leadership’?; Tara Isabella Burton; In The Atlantic; 2014-01-22.
Teaser: What’s wrong with being a follower? Or a lone wolf?
Tara Isabella Burton is on a Ph.D. track as a Clarendon Scholar at Trinity College, Oxford; in the areas of theology & literature.

tl;dr → Because they can; because they need more “data.”  The English system is better, they’ve got this figured out already.  Europe, look to Europe for the answers.

Separately noted.


  • Common Application
  • Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
  • Academic Culpability Test (ACT)
  • anti-intellectualism
    American anti-intellectualism
  • Universe (who cares?)
    • Columbia
    • Harvard
    • Tufts
    • Wesleyan
    • Yale
    • Counterpoint (who doesn’t care?)
      • Oxford
      • The English “public” school scheme, writ large.
  • Opposition
    • contributor, participant → bad (a C-)
    • leader, tangible merit → good (A, A+)
  • Attributes (of a successful supplicant)
    • Generally
      • warmth of personality
      • sense of humor
      • energy
      • concern for others
      • grace under pressure.
    • Harvard
      • maturity
      • character
      • leadership
      • self-confidence
  • Definition of Leadership, as a <quote>a broad church of qualities</quote>
    • maturity
    • concern for others
  • Opposition
    • self-confident leader
    • contra
      • natural follower
      • natural team player
      • natural lone wolf
  • Claim:
    The categorical Leadership is culture-specific.
  • <quote>[leaders] will—implicitly—manage those others who are not [leaders].The implicit message behind the rhetoric of leadership is that learning for learning’s sake is not enough.[Leaders are] People who make it to the top. People who can climb the greasy pole of whatever hierarchy they decide to attach themselves to.</quote> attributed to Robert J. Sternberg, College Admissions for the 21st Century



  • Kingman Brewster, President, Yale
  • William Deresiewicz; ex-admissions, Columbia.
  • Emmi Harward
    • director of college counseling, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla, CA
    • Executive Director of the Association College Counselors in Independent Schools
  • Janet Lavin Rapeleye, dean (of admissions?), Princeton.
  • Robert J. Sternberg, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Tufts University.


In The Atlantic:

Via: backfill.

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