Bashing the institutions that didn't accept your college application might be thought to be a national pass-time in our "class free" nation.There's something oddly satisfying about sneering at the elite schools and the "preppies" "elites" etc. that we suppose inhabit them. But, sometimes the reasons for sneering are more interestingly political and argumentative. Here's a nice example from the "left."
The multiple failures that beset the country, from our mismanaged economy to our shredded constitutional rights to our lack of universal health care to our imperial debacles in the Middle East, can be laid at the feet of our elite universities. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford, along with most other elite schools, do a poor job educating students to think. They focus instead, through the filter of standardized tests, enrichment activities, advanced-placement classes, high-priced tutors, swanky private schools and blind deference to all authority, on creating hordes of competent systems managers. The collapse of the country runs in a direct line from the manicured quadrangles and halls in places like Cambridge, Mass., Princeton, N.J., and New Haven, Conn., to the financial and political centers of power.
Seems like the cause might be a tad oversimplified. There's plenty more ressentiment to be found here, but the conclusion of the piece seems interesting to me.
These elites, and the corporate system they serve, have ruined the country. These elite cannot solve our problems. They have been trained to find "solutions," such as the trillion-dollar bailout of banks and financial firms, that sustain the system. They will feed the beast until it dies. Don’t expect them to save us. They don’t know how. And when it all collapses, when our rotten financial system with its trillions in worthless assets implodes, and our imperial wars end in humiliation and defeat, they will be exposed as being as helpless, and as stupid, as the rest of us.
There's some sort of interesting argument here, involving a sort of argumentum ad "I told you so," or a sort of appeal to fear that provides emotional cover for the unsupported conclusion.
"My view that the products of the ivy league are stupid and helpless will be apparent when the whole system that they are trying to maintain collapses."
1. If the whole system collapses, then the elites were stupid and helpless."
2. The elites are stupid and helpless.
To the degree that we fear that the antecedent of (1) might occur, we might conclude that (2) is true. But, there are other reasons that (1) might collapse other than the collective and stupidity and helplessness of the elites. So, even if we think it is likely that the whole system might collapse that should not provide us with reason to accept the conclusion.
There is sp,e other argument for (2) given throughout–but little of it seems particularly compelling. Some personal experience:
I sat a few months ago with a former classmate from Harvard Divinity School who is now a theology professor. When I asked her what she was teaching, she unleashed a torrent of obscure academic code words. I did not understand, even with three years of seminary, what she was talking about. You can see this absurd retreat into specialized, impenetrable verbal enclaves in every graduate department across the country. The more these universities churn out these stunted men and women, the more we are flooded with a peculiar breed of specialist.
And some anecdotes about how everyone in high school was a phony and not that smart.
I was sent to boarding school on a scholarship at the age of 10. . . These institutions, no matter how mediocre you are, feed students with the comforting self-delusion that they are there because they are not only the best but they deserve the best. You can see this attitude on display in every word uttered by George W. Bush. Here is a man with severely limited intellectual capacity and no moral core. He, along with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who attended my boarding school and went on to Yale, is an example of the legions of self-centered mediocrities churned out by places like Andover, Yale and Harvard.
But, as far as I can see, there's not much more argument here than an oversimplified cause, a lot of Holden Caufield, and the interesting "I will have told you so" argument.