9.9.08

CORRELATION OF FORCES. University Diaries files a report from Charles Murray's presentation to the American Enterprise Institute. The final installment takes down his proposal to reduce the scale and scope of higher education.

You’re creating a small number of very high-profile, madly lusted after, colleges and universities. In them you’re concentrating a tiny super-elite to whom most of the nation’s higher education resources will be devoted. Isn’t this set-up very likely to increase their arrogance to a spectacular degree, however much canned failure you add to the mix? You’re basically describing something very like the French system of écoles normales supérieures – schools notorious for producing unspeakable twits.

And here I go back to the dawning of the age of Palin. America already loathes and distrusts its elites. It reviles the idea of being led by the best and the brightest. Murray’s scheme will make this national tendency far, far worse.

That "loathes and distrusts" is over the top. Has the proper skepticism of people who put more weight on credentials than performance, or on theoretical consistency of policy proposals than whether or not they work, yes. Oh, and national taxpayers pick up the full tab for the Acela Express while the Eastern elite requires Pacific Coasters, Mainers, and Midwesterners to put up state money for trains.

Megan McArdle offers a mea culpa.
People from a handful of schools, most of them hailing from a handful of major metropolitan areas, dominate academia, journalism, and the entertainment industry. Our subtle (or not-so-subtle) distaste for everything from their entertainment to their decorating choices to the vast swathes of the country in which they choose to live permeate almost everything they read, watch, or hear. Of course we don't hear it--to us, that's simply the way the world is.
Perhaps there's a power law at work, and the outcome is optimal.

On the other hand, perhaps it's the failure of the elite classes' policy options (Mr Obama offers the same old Crolyism, Mr McCain would have you believe he's running against the same old cronyism) that's behind what Professor Soltan calls the Age of Palin and what I believe is a populist strain of long standing. Great Society. National Greatness Conservatism. Fatal conceit. Discuss.

Or feel the anger. (Although The Empire Strikes Back is on Spike tonight, I'm not running it in the background.) Here's Jim Treacher.
Isn't it kind of elitist to imply that somebody's not worthwhile unless they went to the right schools? Are there no idiots in the Ivy League? Do you really want to alienate all the voters who had to settle for less?
I'd prefer not to see the battle of the transcripts again this year. Both Vice President Gore and Senator Kerry had weaker transcripts than President Bush. Perhaps there's adverse selection, with the legacy admits to Harvard and Yale (son of a senator, Boston Brahmin roots, and son and grandson of Yalies respectively) going into politics while the strivers go into business.

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