Tuesday, September 16, 2003
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David Brooks goes for the meritocracy's jugular
On Saturday, David Brooks' NYT op-ed discussed what's been lost with the decline of noblesse oblige and the WASPocracy:
As someone who's generation is roughly between Brooks and these bloggers, let me chip in my two cents:
That's a seriously debatable point. But it is an interesting debate.posted by Dan on 09.16.03 at 11:14 AM
Having survived a highly-rated public school of the sort that produced the Blair Hornstine case, and then having gone on to Dartmouth at roughly the time that W was at Yale, I would say that it's possible to overanalyze the whole situation. In my and W's time at the Ivy League, many of the people there were self-made "Resume Gods", and indeed, mediocre. About the only instantly recognizable name from my class, or those on either side of me, is Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and unsuccessful Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate. Most of my classmates are living closely circumscribed lives of quiet desperation, and I would assume that my contemporaries at Harvard and Yale are largely occupied that way as well. I think being born rich or clawing your way up through the meritocracy produces about the same end result at these schools.
Brooks is affable and says many worthwhile and intelligent things, and people have to eat, so he's perhaps creating a social situation here that doesn't really exist insofar as I've seen it -- but it's something interesting to write about. I know plenty of well-bred Episcopalians who are in 2003 still preoccupied with their forebears and their addresses -- W and Dean probably broke with the same constraints that a member of the Yale Class of 2004 would still need to break with to accomplish something in life.posted by: John Bruce on 09.16.03 at 11:14 AM [permalink]
Daniel, your argument about inner-city public schools has an obvious flaw: yes, many high schools are "tough", but a harsh environment that emanates from a menacing student body is not the same thing as an excessively stern faculty with a deliberate program for guiding and build character.
Fareed Zakaria's book "The Future of Freedom" at one point makes the same argument about WASP prep schools that Brooks is making here, albeit in the context of a larger thesis. Zakaria's arguments are well-reasoned and I highly recommend his book.
(And he, too, thinks that meritocracy is a good thing on balance.)posted by: Pliny on 09.16.03 at 11:14 AM [permalink]
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