Saturday, February 13, 2010

Read. Now.

If you enjoyed our discussion on education and the elite, this is a must read. Here are a few excerpts from The Disadvantages of an Elite Education but I strongly recommend visiting The American Scholar to read the article in its entirety.

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. 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. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League degrees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.

The first disadvantage of an elite education, as I learned in my kitchen that day, is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you. Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely—indeed increasingly—homogeneous. Visit any elite campus in our great nation and you can thrill to the heartwarming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. At the same time, because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it. Witness the last two Democratic presidential nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry: one each from Harvard and Yale, both earnest, decent, intelligent men, both utterly incapable of communicating with the larger electorate.

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.

In short, the way students are treated in college trains them for the social position they will occupy once they get out. At schools like Cleveland State, they’re being trained for positions somewhere in the middle of the class system, in the depths of one bureaucracy or another. They’re being conditioned for lives with few second chances, no extensions, little support, narrow opportunity—lives of subordination, supervision, and control, lives of deadlines, not guidelines. At places like Yale, of course, it’s the reverse. The elite like to think of themselves as belonging to a meritocracy, but that’s true only up to a point. Getting through the gate is very difficult, but once you’re in, there’s almost nothing you can do to get kicked out. Not the most abject academic failure, not the most heinous act of plagiarism, not even threatening a fellow student with bodily harm—I’ve heard of all three—will get you expelled. The feeling is that, by gosh, it just wouldn’t be fair—in other words, the self-protectiveness of the old-boy network, even if it now includes girls. Elite schools nurture excellence, but they also nurture what a former Yale graduate student I know calls “entitled mediocrity.” A is the mark of excellence; A- is the mark of entitled mediocrity. It’s another one of those metaphors, not so much a grade as a promise. It means, don’t worry, we’ll take care of you. You may not be all that good, but you’re good enough.


  1. Hardknocks, more solid info on the class divide. I like your focus and perspective. Many do not have the guts to speak freely on the ultimate issue. I am glad that more law scam-busters and their readers are commenting on this!

    People who attend elite schools are those who can afford to go. Attending such schools opens up more opportunities for these students. However, it is so true that elite schools nearly fall over themselves on their accomplishment of increasing "diversity" - when in fact, they are merely admitting and educating more brown, black and yellow faces from the business class.

    This is not real diversity in any sense. Many of those minority students DO NOT identify with their racial group. They identify with their social class. Today, a black Harvard JD is MUCH MORE LIKELY to represent groups, institutions, and corporations that hurt and exploit his "racial group" than he is to fight for members of his race. The former have supported him and they also pay his legal fees and bills.

    I have also noticed that educated "champions of the poor" have a COMPLETE DISCONNECT to reality faced by their supposed "constituents." Those in power SPEAK to the millions struggling to get by, but they ACT to protect the status quo that benefits the elite/ruling class. Obama is a prime example of this. The man is a figurehead (as they ALL are) and a gutless, spineless minion servant of those in power.

    Thank you for letting me vent on this.


  2. Uh-Oh.

    So Nando has now started to channel John Bungosphallus with all this "minions" talk?


    I had been grateful for the recent disappearance of the "Jerry Seinfeld elite/Martha Stewart elite" nonsense that had been going on at Tom the Temp earlier in the week. I guess the jerk (and his minion?) has started to pop up here instead.

  3. All of our elected officials are concerned with preserving the power structure - whether they have a D or R behind their name doesn't matter. This has been the case since the inception of this nation. Maybe I wasn't clear about who constitutes the "elite". I am talking about the 1% who own about 35% of all privately-held wealth. It has nothing to do with race, religion or ethnicity.

    I have taken grief on Temp Attorney, for telling others not to attack racial groups for taking advantage of opportunities presented to them by greedy U.S. law firms and corporations. Greed is a basic human characteristic that is NOT endemic to any one racial or ethnic group. Do you think otherwise?

    Obama is a puppet, as were Bush, Clinton, and just about every single chief executive, in this nation's history. They serve at the whim of corporate America, just as European monarchs served the wealthy landowners during medieval times. This is no secret. Elections also are a joke in this country. Is this news to you?

    You think Washington and Jefferson fought the British to help the average man, woman, or child? They wanted control of the assets. Read the Constitution and see who could vote - landowning white males.

    Just because I use common terms, such as elite and minion, do not place me in the same boat as an antisemite who happens to use similar terms.

  4. The article that is the subject of these comments only supports my position on what the elite thinks of all who are not they. And like it or not, as PC as the so called scam busting "Nando" is trying to be, he also backs up my position. The elite are the elite mostly because of race, class often religion. What are the racial, enthic, religious demographics of the overwhelming majority of those who attend Ivy League schools? Face it. Get your head out of your asses. What is the main keystone or foundation for the class divide between the elite and those who are not they? And you use the same words as the great one because those are the applicable words of truth. You know who and what minions are. And Nando, even with his PC head in the sand, is correct. Obama is a minion of the elite. He is a house kneegrow through and though....Owned and controlled by who? You know. No need for me to mention what or who David Alexrod or Rahm Emmnauel are. You can ignore the 800 lb guerilla in the room all you want but even with all of the lemmings' pitiful efforts at denial and impersonation of ostriches, that guerilla will not go away.

    And it is definately not anti-semetic or anti elitist WASP to mere state the obvious, that the elite classes that run this country are mostly made up of folks of Jewish and or WASPy background. Just the facts.

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  6. i think both sides are reading what they want to read, with regards to nando's rant. the guy above who tends to blame eveything on jews and 'their puppet wasps' thinks nando is too pc and an idiot. simply, becaue nando does not blame everyhting on jews. well, by such 'logic' he must be an idiot.

    someone else charges him as being a minion of antisemite john. antisemite is spelled like this by the way, genius. i guess if you don't kiss obama's ass, and u make the slightest criticism of him, then you are acusing all black and minorities of being in the service of 'evil jews.' get real, pc jerkoff. u cant please everyone, and sometimes you piss both sides off. such is life.

  7. Look, the fact is is that most people who went to lawschool, passed the bar and got admitted to 'practice' did so believing that such would, in some form or another, make them too, members of the elite. If they aspired towards biglaw or corporate in house, as most do, then they harbored delusions of elite grandeur.

    As they and we now know, simply having a JD and bar admission, for the most part, still does not make one qualify to be among the elite. There are other more insurmountable, permanent and often biological barriers to entering the inner sanctums of the elite.

    Perhaps many of these alleged scam busters don't want to face that fact because they still believe that, they too, with any JD in hand, can get biglaw. Can get corporate. Can get into the inner sanctums of elitehood.

    They still don't want to face the fact that to the elite (whoever they may be..wink, wink..), as a poster on another blog once effectively indicated, most of you...even the young minority lady who "did everything right", are mud people and that it is just and right that such folk are not allowed into their inner sanctums save for a few token "diversity initiative" folks who benefit from the so-called liberal guilt that does exist among some of the elite.

    Scam busters: you fell for the scam that a JD would put you in with the elite and out of the dregs of the mud people. You now know that the JD was not enough and you feel cheated. But you still refuse to face the fact of why. You won't be honest and ID who the scammmers are, why they keep you out, and how they view you and why do they look at you as mud people. That is just plain foolishness.

    I grow weary of this. Nevermind. I will just use the term "elite" in describing who the overlords are. I will assume that intelligent folk will know who the elite really are and why they can't be conversant with that blue collar plumber in their kitchen.

    Good luck to all of you because you will need it with the deck stacked against you and with your refusal to acknowledge who you are and who the elite are and how they view you.

  8. Here's an example of pro-power, anti-intellectual thought at Harvard Law:

    Glenn Greenwald discusses this paper here:

  9. I liked this quote of one of Deresiewicz's students:

    “So are you saying that we’re all just, like, really excellent sheep?”

  10. Don't let no-messed system drag your spirit down

  11. I do not recommend anyone take classes in college except community college vocational. College has just become too much economic propaganda. Emulate western europe--LESS school is better.

  12. Archangel, you read FAR too much into my first comment. I am glad that scam-bloggers are starting to talk about the class issue, i.e. Hardknocks, Life's Mockery. I love that LM looks at the effects of the legal industry and law school expansion on minorities and the black community.

    My blog is direct and forward. I write and speak plainly, and with purpose. There is no hidden message to decipher.

    The reality is that many minorities mistakenly believe that if they work their asses off, they too can enter the upper echelons, i.e. Biglaw, Fortune 500, appointment to high office, etc. and gain the respect and admiration of their peers.

    Of course not all minorities are the minions of Corporate America. I don't even know how you reached that interpretation!! However, many of them are soon discarded like used tissue. Calling Obama a puppet is the truth. This does not make one a racist. Did you fail to notice how often I refer to all politicians and appointed officials as mere puppets?! Most of them are white.

    You shouldn't jump to conclusions so quickly. Head over to Life's Mockery and ask the author what she thinks of my comments on Obama or how minorities are used up by Biglaw.

    As you can see, "John Bungsophalus" is teeming with rage simply because I and the other scam-bloggers don't join him in his ill-conceived, wrongheaded, foolish war on Jews. Apparently, this guy does not realize that the law has been used a weapon against Jewish people throughout history. He must have missed the day they taught history in class.

    I did make a mistake when I wrote that race and ethnicity have no impact - wealthy WASPs definitely benefit under the system they created and maintain. (I simply don't see the need to name them by race. Their are now plenty of wealthy blacks, Indians, and Chinese pulling the strings - although they pale in comparison to the numbers of wealthy WASPs.) However, you COMPLETELY and grossly overstate the role of Jewish people in this scheme.

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