Your Myopia’s No Good Here

The American Scholar: “But it isn’t just a matter of class. My education taught me to believe that people who didn’t go to an Ivy League or equivalent school weren’t worth talking to, regardless of their class. I was given the unmistakable message that such people were beneath me. We were ‘the best and the brightest,’ as these places love to say, and everyone else was, well, something else: less good, less bright. I learned to give that little nod of understanding, that slightly sympathetic ‘Oh,’ when people told me they went to a less prestigious college. (If I’d gone to Harvard, I would have learned to say ‘in Boston’ when I was asked where I went to school—the Cambridge version of noblesse oblige.) I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to elite colleges, often precisely for reasons of class. I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to college at all.”

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4 Comments

  1. For years I’ve struggled to make the point of this article, first and foremost, to my wife, who attended an elite university, whereas I attended a mediocre one. The elitist notions discussed in the essay — of the value of an Ivy League education — seem to be mostly an East Coast phenomenon. There are many fewer Ivy League graduates in, say, Chicago, where I’m from, and people give a lot less of a shit about where you went to college than they do in New York. People there value pluck and talent and still believe, perhaps unrealistically, in a true meritocracy in which one succeeds based on his/her talents, not through connections that go with having rich parents that can afford to send you to Harvard or Yale. Upon moving to New York I noticed right away that many of my peers were Ivy products, and I sensed a glass ceiling above which someone of my working-class background was not allowed to rise. I’ve since accepted that there are many people whose starting line in life was moved a lot further ahead than mine. I let this fact motivate me to work twice as hard as they in hopes I can overcome my “handicap.” Still, I sometimes feel like the subject of a recent New Yorker cartoon, who is reminded of his inferior status due to attending a public college. (View online at http://www.cartoonbank.com/item/125081.)

  2. I was nodding my head in agreement with the author, until I came to the obligatory putdown of George W Bush. John Kerry is a smart decent man–Bush is a dope.

    What the author is saying is that elite schools separate people into two categories: the elect and the un-elect. Fine as far as it goes. But he himself separates people into two categories: progressive (good) and conservative (bad–and stupid).

    No wonder he can’t talk to that plumber. He’s a bloody snob.

  3. god, every time I read something by this guy I am gobsmacked. how is it that editors keep giving him assignments?? he seems not only wrongheaded but irrelevant and dated.

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