Paul L. Caron

Monday, December 12, 2016

NY Times:  The ‘H-Bomb’ Fizzles—The Harvard Brand Takes A Hit

Harvard (2016)New York Times, The ‘H-Bomb’ Fizzles: The Harvard Brand Takes a Hit:

There exists a species of person — typically a well-groomed overachiever — who, when asked where he or she went to college, rather than state its name directly, will provide a Russian nesting doll set of geographical responses.

In New England. Massachusetts. Well, Boston. Um … Cambridge.

Finally, sotto voce, with an apologetic wince or sheepish smile, anticipating the word’s being volleyed back in an affected Boston Brahmin accent: Harvard.

For decades, circumspect students and alumni of the nation’s oldest university have played “this unbearable little game,” said William Deresiewicz, author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite & the Way to a Meaningful Life. “They’re coy, because they don’t want to destroy our egos, but they can’t wait for the moment they drop the ‘H-bomb.’” ...

This coyness may be no crime, but a genuine wish not to appear bigheaded for their association with an institution that is shorthand for the acme of academe. No matter Harvard’s perch in that year’s rankings in U.S. News & World Report (currently No. 2, after Princeton), it remains peerless in global cachet. It is the university boasting the most presidents among its graduates (eight, including the law and business schools), and the one that, despite prohibitions against on-campus filming, is cast in movies and TV shows, for every genre from love stories to law-school comedies, to italicize its characters’ intellects and — how do you like them apples? — elite status.

Yet after several incidents that have besmirched the university’s reputation, and in an era of heightened self-consciousness over privilege, that formerly contrived embarrassment may be ceding to sincere shame and a reassessment of the merits of a Harvard education. ...

Beyond the unsavory headlines and questionable associations, swelling populist resentment for bastions of exclusivity and obscene wealth — from many of Mr. Trump’s supporters and critics alike — may inspire alumni of Harvard, and similarly elite schools, to be even less conspicuous about where they received their degrees. ...

The rose-garden perfume of privilege — as charged a word as can be found on campuses these days — emanating from anyone with a Harvard diploma receives more censure now than ever, whether that privilege came in the form of significant parental help in gaining admission or was acquired at the school and now opens endless doors. ...

Nick F. Barber, a current senior, wrote in 2014 in The Harvard Crimson, the daily student newspaper, that “privilege — and more importantly what privilege says about each of our characters — makes us uncomfortable. Our privilege forces us to question our worthiness and our merit, two of the things most highly valued at an institution like this one.”

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If you can graduate from Harvard and remain a conservative or libertarian, you may be worth something. It demonstrates you would have both intelligence and grit to survive the leftie propaganda machine there. Otherwise I will pass on the harvard grads.

Posted by: richard40 | Dec 15, 2016 12:55:24 PM

old gunny - Absolutely right!

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Dec 14, 2016 9:22:26 AM

The home of the H-bomb is Chicago, not Harvard. :)

Posted by: Dan S | Dec 14, 2016 8:24:21 AM

My son was recruited by Harvard, Yale, and Princeton because he topped out on the PSATs and SATs (1540 out of 1600).

It wasn't until I read "Crazy U." that I realized he wouldn't be seriously considered there. They just wanted his application so they could game the U.S. News stats to make them more exclusive.

After seeing the news about how they accommodate the social justice snowflakes, I declined to let my son play their game.

Posted by: Uma Thurmond's Feet | Dec 14, 2016 4:28:53 AM

I once had a hard skill PhD tell me he, "went to a small college in Texas where two plus two equaled four, just like it did at MIT".

Posted by: old gunny | Dec 14, 2016 4:20:47 AM

Not so sure about that little game--most Hahvahd men I've known work Harvard into every conversation they can.

Posted by: tim maguire | Dec 14, 2016 3:15:47 AM

This is an astonishingly ignorant column. Having spent my adult life in both Ivy and non-Ivy academia, generally speaking, the quality of student, the quality of research, the quality of faculty, excepting for the occasional area of research, the rigour of a Harvard education, STEM or not, is unsurpassed.

Posted by: Been There Done That | Dec 14, 2016 2:12:13 AM

My daughter did her undergrad at the USMA. She has several Harvard grads working for her.

Posted by: justfrank | Dec 14, 2016 12:30:46 AM

Given the nature of what colleges [I won't say higher education, because I came out of high school with more knowledge before I went to college than the modern college educated I encounter] have become; I would not hire a non-STEM graduate of any Ivy League school, nor any of the schools working hard to attract SJW "Special Snowflakes". The non-STEM grads will be far more trouble than they can ever be worth to your company.

Posted by: Subotai Bahadur | Dec 13, 2016 10:03:13 PM

If I am hiring, I will avoid the Ivy Leaguer who might need a week off during elections and full moons.

Posted by: EricMack | Dec 13, 2016 9:16:14 PM

The main problem with Harvard grads and others of their ilk is that they've been running this country into the ground for the past few decades.

"Our elites aren't elite but they are elitist." That pretty much sums it up.

Posted by: TBlakely | Dec 13, 2016 8:07:43 PM

I'm a Harvard Law graduate. I found this column remarkably silly. Plus, I have lots of money: ha ha on you.

Posted by: Danube of Thought | Dec 13, 2016 7:57:59 PM

I agree with TheTurk about the uselessness of Harvard grads. But then, I went to Princeton.

Posted by: Howard | Dec 13, 2016 7:57:38 PM

Well... That's a damned shame.

Posted by: Sam L. | Dec 13, 2016 7:42:47 PM

I think I'll try a hipster's variant of that:

"My college? Oh,you probably haven't heard of it. It's pretty obscure."

Posted by: Steve Skubinna | Dec 13, 2016 7:21:36 PM

You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much.

Posted by: Mike A | Dec 13, 2016 7:11:51 PM

One of my secret professional pleasures is seeing how useless Harvard grads tend to be...

Posted by: TheTurk | Dec 13, 2016 9:23:25 AM

I like this "unbearable little game", because when it comes down to the final volley, I tell them "M.I.T." That's always good for a surprise.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Dec 13, 2016 4:44:22 AM

There's at least one brand name that has taken a hit for click-bait articles like this one.

Given a choice between Harvard and not-Harvard, most prospective students and prospective employers will still choose Harvard.

Given a choice between the New York Times and The Financial Times, most educated professionals choose the FT.

Posted by: Brand names | Dec 12, 2016 1:46:52 PM