How not to write about college students: a lesson from Slate

How not to write about college students: a lesson from Slate

Bryan Alexander

A popular article on Slate this week offers a nearly perfect demonstration of how not to write about college students.  The lesson is on how to pretend a small fraction of students stand in for the entire undergraduate population.

Here’s how it* works.

"cope" photo by mindbubbleThe title (“Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out”) and thesis (“perfectly healthy but overparented kids get to college and [suffer from an] inability to cope”) proclaim a focus on students suffering from helicopter parents – a legitimate topic, one widely discussed in education circles.  The text as published by Slate hits a nice nexus between education and parenting, solidly popular topics today.

It’s also largely about rich families.

Check out the source with which Lythcott-Haims leads, William Deresiewicz ‘s Excellent Sheep.   This book is entirely about the socio-economic and academic elite, traditional-age students at the Yale/Harvard level.  That’s a small fraction of America’s undergraduate population.  I…

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