Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Because I really, really like this latest Ross Douthat column skewering Ivy League monopolism/elitism .

His excuse for commenting comes from the silly dust-up over the Susan Patton letter advising young Princeton women to take their dating possibilities for finding a good husband during their four years seriously, advice that, when applied to most any decent college, is actually fairly sensible compared to the normal lack-of-marriage-advice or bad feminist advice young collegiate women usually get these days. Jane Austen would basically approve, although she would also advise such women to find more opportunities to meet slightly older men, at least the “more-established” ones.

We can debate the Patton letter if you want, sure, but the real Nixon-esque action is to be found in what Douthat does with it. He’s unfair to Patton by representing her advice as being less about marriage generally than about how a wise Princeton lass stays within the elite class, but with riffs like the following, I do believe I can forgive him:

. . . 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!

. . . 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 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.

Nixon was right about some things, you know.

More on: Ross Douthat

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles