I found the narrative to be heartbreakingly beautiful. I loved how you were able to seamlessly interweave so many different narratives, all observed through the eyes of a very perceptive child. To echo the other commenters on here, I can't wait to read more of your work!
Also he kept harping on the fact that elite universities don't encourage students to 'ask the big questions' but rather 'train them to ask the little questions.' He declares that elite universities are moving toward vocational training, but again offers no evidence to back them up (even names of sample courses would be useful here). What I feel like he's splitting hairs here. Teaching students to be analytical thinkers provides them with the fundamental skills necessary to ask the 'big questions.'
WOW I have so many thoughts about this piece. In no particular order:
@Erica, I completely agree with you RE his entire section of the elite not being able to relate to average people. I think that his own issue that he can't relate to his plumber....I went to Williams with people from a wide swath of socio-economic strata, and have worked with people from very different backgrounds than my own, and have never felt like I could not hold a conversation with them. I found this line "So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work" SO CRINGE.
I also thought that his paragraph glorifying 'the opportunity not to be rich' was cloying. I have a feeling he does not drive a Honda, and does not vacation in FL. A staggering percentage of my classmates have gone on to work in education, non-profits, and in other 'meaningful' careers (and my class was not an anomaly). I also find it extremely reductive that he only considers those careers to be the ones with meaning. I can promise you that there are ways to find meaningful work across sectors.
Equally reductive was his point about students at elite schools behind petrified of failure. I am POSITIVE that students at second and third tier schools are equally uncomfortable with failure.
@Erica & @Bill I agree that he completely ignores entrepreneurship by saying "This is not to say that students from elite colleges never pursue a riskier or less lucrative course after graduation, but even when they do, they tend to give up more quickly than others." This feels incredibly anecdotal- he literally cites one friend who stopped writing poetry after a year. There are legions of startups founded by grads of elite universities (Harry's, Warby Parker, AllBirds, Birchbox, SeatGeek, Flexport etc etc).
Another prime example of his utter lack of data and hard evidence is when he writes "students from elite schools tend to graduate with less debt and are more likely to be able to float by on family money for a while. " He's totally ignoring the fact that our entire generation is choked by student loans, and that burden is often what compels people to take more corporate and established careers.
I will say that I agree with his points about students at elite schools having myriad second chances and opportunities. I was definitely shocked to read that section about his friend at Cleveland State. I honestly had no idea it was like that.
Finally, this is a personal issue, but I find his definition of 'elite universities' as a category that begins and ends with the Ivy League, while all liberal arts schools are summarily lumped into the second tier as indicative of his own shortsighted elitism.
@erica, RE your point about Len Bias is interesting. Yes, 'Peter the Great' shouldn't have been shipping out drugs, but he shouldn't take full culpability for Aisha's overdose. I think it's curious that the author completely Aisha, and paints her as a victim.
I wish the author had also done more research on this Peter the Great character - I'm curious how he fell into this lifestlye, and to you point Bill, how he convinced his girlfriend to be his accomplice. Also, what was the deal with the pregnancy tests?
I read a piece in VF a year or so ago about Silk Road, and I still find it staggering that about 5% of the web is visible. This is an interesting story that would benefit from a more in-depth examination.
Also, the minor aside about 'Kill as Few Patients as Possible' was utterly chilling. In my opinion, that makes Peter the Great sound like a Mengele-esque mad scientist.