September 19, 2005

Ross Douthat

...writes very readable prose. Some excerpts from "Privilege":

What made our age [at Harvard] different was the moment that happened over and over again at Harvard, when you said, This is going to be hard and then suddenly realized, No, this is easy. Maybe it came when you boiled a three-page syllabus to a hundred pages of essential exam-time reading, or when you saw that you could turn in that paper whenever and your frazzled [prof] wasn't going to dock you, or when you handed in C-grade work and were rewarded with a gleaming B+. But whenever it came, it taught us that it wasn't our sloth alone that made Harvard easy...No, Harvard was easy because almost no one seemed to be pushing back.
~ Delbanco says of English, the humanities exhibit "the contradictory attributes of a religion in its late phase--a certain desperation to attract converts, combined with an evident lack of convinced belief in its own scriptures and traditions."...Or as one History and Literature tutor said, "well, you know, if you want to be a consultant or an investment banker, a degree in History and Literature won't stand in your way."

As my roommate said, you are a virgin by choice: the choice of the women of America.

In today's meritocracy, the family fortune must be reconstituted in every generation. Even if you could live off your parents' wealth, the ethos of the meritocracy holds that you shouldn't, because your worth as a person is determined not by clan or class but by what you do, and whether you succeed at it. What you do, in turn, hinges on what you put down on your resume, and often on the GPA that adorns it.

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