“I know why it matters so much, and I also don’t understand why it matters so much,” said William M. Shain, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin. “Where we went to college does not set us up for success or keep us away from it.”
But that’s not the country we live in any more, at least from a political and governmental standpoint. Let me repeat this, from a post in early 2007:
The 2008 Presidential campaign has been underway since 2004, but only now has the list of candiates begun to congeal. So how to winnow things down? We’ve griped about the fact that Ronald Reagan was the last President that wasn’t a product of an Ivy League school, either as an undergraduate, a graduate, or both. So it makes sense that candidates that are have a significant advantage. Let’s see who these might be.
The Republicans start off at a disadvantage; of the major candidates, only Mitt Romney fits the bill (as one would expect a Governor of Massachusetts to.) Although we have grave reservations about nominating him, doing otherwise will put the party at a handicap. That includes a “ring knocker” like John McCain.
The Democrats are in a better position with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Kerry. (So much for the “Breck Girl!”)
We need to ask why, in a country as diverse as ours it, this is so. We believe there are two reasons for this.
The first is that the selective admission process–bolstered by the long line of people to get in–will inevitably include a disproportionate portion of high-achieving people.
The second is that the Ivy League presents to its students–especially those in law and business–a view of the world that is decidedly closed and orderly, and on top of that gives them a chance to view that world from a high perch. Reprojecting this to the American people is actually comforting to the latter, especially with the daily uncertainties they face.
The problem with this is that the U.S.’ main power challengers–the Muslim Arabs, a “closed circle” of their own–are people who play by an entirely different set of rules. The Cold War, a relatively set-piece business, for the most part could be managed by people with an Ivy League mentality. This one can’t, which is why we’re stuck with two unworkable alternatives to solve our problem in Iraq and no Plan C.
Electing Ivy Leaguers is like eating “comfort food:” it tastes good and fills us up, but our health goes downhill all the same.
The Breck Girl is gone, as is Mitt Romney.
In the construction industry, we say about bidding, “When you seal the envelope, you seal the verdict.” That’s the way it is with college admissions, and not just for the applicant, but for everyone.
It’s scary to think we live in a country where college admission personnel and committees in effect determine the future of the nation, but that’s where we’re at.