Ross Douthat, the token conservative at The New York Times, does have a talent on occasion for taking on the sacred cows of the Left, and no bovine has more divinity on the port side of our politics than the prestigious Ivy League schools that serve as the “seminaries” for admission into the seats of power in our society dominated by the Left.
The intermarriage of elite collegians is only one of these mechanisms — but it’s an enormously important one. The outraged reaction to her comments notwithstanding, Patton wasn’t telling Princetonians anything they didn’t already understand. Of course Ivy League schools double as dating services. Of course members of elites — yes, gender egalitarians, the males as well as the females — have strong incentives to marry one another, or at the very least find a spouse from within the wider meritocratic circle. What better way to double down on our pre-existing advantages? What better way to minimize, in our descendants, the chances of the dread phenomenon known as “regression to the mean”?
That this “assortative mating,” in which the best-educated Americans increasingly marry one another, also ends up perpetuating existing inequalities seems blindingly obvious, which is no doubt why it’s considered embarrassing and reactionary to talk about it too overtly. We all know what we’re supposed to do — our mothers don’t have to come out and say it!
Why, it would be like telling elite collegians that they should all move to similar cities and neighborhoods, surround themselves with their kinds of people and gradually price everybody else out of the places where social capital is built, influence exerted and great careers made. No need — that’s what we’re already doing! (What Richard Florida called “the mass relocation of highly skilled, highly educated and highly paid Americans to a relatively small number of metropolitan regions, and a corresponding exodus of the traditional lower and middle classes from these same places” is one of the striking social facts of the modern meritocratic era.) We don’t need well-meaning parents lecturing us about the advantages of elite self-segregation, and giving the game away to everybody else. …
Or it would be like telling admissions offices at elite schools that they should seek a form of student-body “diversity” that’s mostly cosmetic, designed to flatter multicultural sensibilities without threatening existing hierarchies all that much. They don’t need to be told — that’s how the system already works! The “holistic” approach to admissions, which privileges résumé-padding and extracurriculars over raw test scores or G.P.A.’s, has two major consequences: It enforces what looks suspiciously like de facto discrimination against Asian applicants with high SAT scores, while disadvantaging talented kids — often white and working class and geographically dispersed — who don’t grow up in elite enclaves with parents and friends who understand the system. The result is an upper class that looks superficially like America, but mostly reproduces the previous generation’s elite.
But don’t come out and say it! Next people will start wondering why the names in the U.S. News rankings change so little from decade to decade. Or why the American population gets bigger and bigger, but our richest universities admit the same size classes every year, Or why in a country of 300 million people and countless universities, we can’t seem to elect a president or nominate a Supreme Court justice who doesn’t have a Harvard or Yale degree.
Go here to read the rest. This shot at the faux egalitarianism of the Left produced some angry, albeit unitentionally humorous, responses in the comboxes. I cherish this one since it represents the view that I think many Leftists have of themselves:
Frankly, I don’t understand what the author wants. Does he WANT a regression toward the mean? Should a summa cum laude Harvard graduate feel socially obliged to fall in love with, marry, and have children with a high school dropout to raise the dropout’s chances of improving his progeny’s status? This is not to say that some Harvardians have not turned out to be bums, and some dropouts have turned out to be wildly successful, but these are the exceptions.
Obviously, I am being facetious as to the author’s intentions. But isn’t it more efficient to impeccably educate a small group of preternaturally intelligent and talented people, inundating them with social consciousness so that they go into the areas of the country where the education gap is truly atrocious and improve the educational systems, infrastructures, and governance therein? We DESPERATELY have to raise the status of the underprivileged in America, but in order for this to have any meaningful success, it has to arise organically– presumably from the efforts of intelligent, pragmatic reformers, who the Ivy League is attempting to turn out.
Last time I checked, the informal motto of Princeton University, the school you so vilify as an Illuminati-level coven for the 1%, is “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” It’s not “Princeton to marry a Princetonian and get a job at Goldman Sachs and gentrify a Brooklyn neighborhood to force out the poor people and cackle with malicious glee.”
Liberals as missionaries to the great unwashed (us). That brings to mind my favorite quote from CS Lewis:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.