Showing posts with label Harvard University. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Harvard University. Show all posts

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why Humiliate Yourself To Get into an Ivy League College? The Search for a Richer Life

Years ago I had a professor at the University of Texas who hung his college diploma in the guest bathroom of his home--right above the toilet.  As I recall he was a Harvard graduate.

I remember being offended by the gesture, intended I suppose to be ironic. If I had the opportunity to go to Harvard or any Ivy League university, I told myself, I would hang my diploma in a place of honor.

Years later I obtained a doctorate degree from Harvard, one of the stupidest things I ever did. For years I hung my diploma in my office, but today it hangs in a back hallway of my home.  I didn't put my Harvard diploma in an obscure place to be ironic.  I just came to realize how meaningless my Harvard degree really is.

Yesterday, Frank Bruni had an op ed piece in the New York Times about people humiliating themselves in their college admissions essays in order to stand out and perhaps improve their chances of being accepted at an elite college.  One young woman, Bruni wrote, confessed in her essay that she had once urinated on herself rather than interrupt an intellectually stimulating conversation with a teacher. Another young man revealed his disappointment with size of his genitals. Other students enroll in college-application camps, which can cost up to $14,000, where they are taught how to polish their college admissions essays to make them more appealing to Ivy League admissions officers.

Why do young people turn themselves inside out to get into an elite American university--Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Duke, Columbia, etc. I suppose they believe that these institutions hold the key that unlocks the golden door. If only I can get a degree from Harvard, these people tell themselves, I will have a richer life.

But I think many people who hanker to go to an elite college will be disappointed if they actually enroll. For the most part, these institutions are intellectually vapid, surreptitiously  racist, and pathetically provincial in their outlook on the world. They are openly contemptuous of American culture and traditional American values.  The people who run these cesspools of privilege think they embrace diverse philosophies and points of view, yet they harass traditional Christian student groups.  The professors and administrators of these intellectual ghettos think they are guardians of truth and beauty, yet they scorn the very notion that there are universal truths. Indeed, a great many people who inhabit our elitist universities seek nothing more from life than money, power, and public recognition.

If only I could get into Harvard!
Moreover, our elite institutions are not producing people who can analyze and solve problems, as evidenced by the way the Obama administration is running the country. Almost everyone connected withe the present  administration in Washington has a degree from an elite British or American university, and yet it is evident to nearly everyone that these folks do not know what they are doing.

And of course, all these prestigious colleges and universities are outrageously expensive. It will cost you around sixty grand a year to hang out with a bunch of nincompoops.

I was ruminating on Bruni's essay yesterday morning when I walked into my parish church to attend Mass. I saw four nuns of the Missionaries of Charity sitting in the back of the church--sisters of Mother Teresa's order. They are quite distinctive in their white veils with the blue stripes--veils that always remind me of my grandmother's tea towels.

As I looked at these nuns I realized that there is a great gulf between a humiliating life and a life lived in humility. Some people are willing to humiliate themselves in order to get into Harvard or Yale. Others are humble enough to give their lives to God.

And I wondered, as I turned to genuflect before the tabernacle, who has the richer life--the people who dedicate their lives to God or the people who get a degree from Harvard?

References

Frank Bruni. Naked Confessions of the College Bound. New York Times, June 15, 2015, Sunday Review Section, p. 3.




Monday, April 28, 2014

David Leonhardt says it's harder and harder to get into Harvard University: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"

David Leonhardt wrote an essay in the Sunday issue of the New York Times about how hard it is these days for someone get admitted to an Ivy League college--particularly if the applicant is an American. In 1994, Leonhardt wrote, about 45 college-age Americans out of every 100,000 were attending Harvard.  In 2012, that number dropped to just 33 out of every 100,000.

David Leonhardt
At the same time, the number of foreign students attending our nation's most elite institutions is growing. According to Leonhardt, about 10 percent of the student body at many of the nation's most selective colleges are foreigners.

Why are our elite institutions admitting more foreign students?  Because they can pay the full freight of tuition, room and board without the need for grants or scholarships In other words, foreign students from wealthy families are an important revenue source for America's most prestigious colleges and universities.

Leonhardt's essay appeared just a few days after Evan Mandery published an article in the Times deploring the fact that the nation's most elite institutions give admission preferences to the children of their alumni.  Mandery said that legacies have a big edge in the admissions process similar to the edge given to African Americans, Hispanics, and varsity athletes.

Take together, Leonhardt's essay and Mandery's essay convey a very clear message. If you want to go to an Ivy League college or a handful of other selective institutions it will help you if you are Hispanic, African American, the child of an alumnus, a varsity athlete or a wealthy foreigner.  And as Leonhardt pointed out, a "large fraction" of students from all these categories come from high-income families.

I could not tell whether Leonhardt was critical of this trend or a supporter.  Like so many New York Times op ed essays, Leonhardt's article wallows in cryptic indecision.  Leonhardt concludes his essay with these lines: "[T]hese [elite] schools have become a patchwork of diversity--gender, race, religion, and now geography. Underneath the surface, though, that patchwork still has some common threads." 

I have no idea what that means.

I do know that white male Southerners and Midwesterners who come from low-income families have very little chance of being admitted to an Ivy League school.  But so what?  Why would anyone who grew up living in the real world want to enter a higher education environment in which admission decisions are based--even in part--on race and greed? 

In my opinion, young people who want to expand their horizons by going to college should skip the elitist institutions--Harvard, Yale, Emory, Brown, etc. etc.  Instead, they should consider studying outside the United States.  Why not attend college in Monterrey or Guadalajara, for example?  Even if the educational experience is unexceptional, Americans studying in Mexico will learn an important second language and immerse themselves in another culture.

As it happened, Leonhardt's essay appeared in the same issue of the Times as an article about  Elizabeth Warren, a former Harvard Law professor and now U.S. Senator.   Warren has been critical of the federal government for regulating the finance industry in a way that favors Wall Street. "The game is rigged," Warren was quoted as saying, "and the American people know it."

Warren is right of course, but it is not only Wall Street that has rigged the game against the American people. Our elite colleges and universities have rigged the game as well.  It is no accident that Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard, has also been a hedge fund manager and was one of President Obama's top economic advisers.

Warren quotes Summers as telling her she could be an outsider or an insider, and Warren obviously portrays herself as an outsider and friend of the little guy.  And maybe she is.  But we should not forget that Warren advanced herself in the world of academia by portraying herself as being part Native American--specifically a Cherokee--when in fact she almost certainlyis  not.

And so I repeat my question. Why would anyone want to attend an elite college where a person's advancement can be enhanced by the fact that he or she might have a trace of Native American blood?

Yes indeed, Elizabeth. The game is rigged.

"The game is rigged."


References

David Leonhardt. Getting Into the Ivies. New York Times, April 27, 2014, Sunday Review Section, p. 1.

Gretchen Morgenson. From Outside or Inside, the Deck Looks Stacked. New York Times, April 27, 2014, Sunday Business Section, p. 1.







Friday, January 3, 2014

Blah, blah, blah: Drew Faust, president of Harvard, lectures America on the value of arts education

Drew Faust, president of Harvard University, took time out from her busy schedule to co-author an op ed essay for USA Today on the value of arts education. Anxiety abounds, Faust and co-author Wynton Marsalis noted, about the ability of our current educational system to respond to a rapidly changing world. "Yet," they conclude, "the education we are fashioning for our children and their children seems ill-suited for the lives they will lead."

Faust and Marsalis went on to summarize the kind of education Americans need to live in the world we now inhabit and to shape the world to come:
We need education that nurtures judgment as well as mastery, ethics and values as well as analysis. We need learning that will enable students to interpret complexity, to adapt, to make sense of lives they never anticipated. We need a way of teaching that encourages them to develop understanding of those different from ourselves, enabling constructive collaborations across national and cultural origins and identities.
Faust and Marsalis then argue that many of the skills and attributes that students need to prepare themselves for life are taught through the arts--drama, music, dance, etc.

Well, who can argue with that? 

Drew Faust is president of  Harvard, the nation's most prestigious university and perhaps the most prestigious university in the world. We can reasonably assume that Harvard is providing students with an education that instills the values Faust and Marsalis articulated. Indeed, we might reasonably assume that all of the nation's elite universities--Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, Brown, etc.--are instilling these values.

Drew Faust, President of Harvard Univefrsity
Unfortunately, I don't think these values are being taught in today's most prestigious universities.  Let's look at the people who work in the Obama administration, almost all of whom have undergraduate or graduate degrees from elite American universities.  For example, Jacob Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, has degrees from Harvard and Georgetown. Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama's top advisers, received a degree from Stanford; and Obama himself has degrees from Columbia and Harvard Law School.

Do we see the Obamacrats exercising sound judgment as well as mastery? Do we see them demonstrating ethical values as well as analysis?  Do we see them expressing an appreciation for diverse cultures and religious traditions?

No, we do not.  Jacob Lew, our Secretary of the Treasury, received a $685,000 exit bonus from New York University when he left NYU to go to work for Citigroup. He also got a special deal from NYU on a home mortgage. Illegal? No. But certainly this compensation is inappropriate for a person working at a tax-exempt university.

And how about Valerie Jarrett, who basically said Americans are too dumb to understand President Obama's grand designs.  Has she demonstrated an understanding of people different from herself? No, she has shown contempt for the very people she is supposed to be serving.

And President Obama, who has accumulated honors and accolades all his life--has he demonstrated moral rectitude? Has he shown himself able to build "constructive collaborations across national and cultural origins and identities"? No, he has repeatedly insulted the Catholic Church, casually and perhaps even unknowingly. He has lied to the American public. His administration has managed to outrage many of the major nations of the world: France, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Saudi Arabia and India among them.

It is time for Americans to realize that our nation's elite universities are not producing the leaders we need. The people who run our government--almost all graduates of our nation's elite colleges, are arrogant, provincial, condescending, and contemptuous of traditional American values, including the values associated with Christianity.  Perhaps more art education would produce better citizens as Faust and Marsalis suggest, but somehow I think President Obama and his cronies would still be as crude as they are now, even if they had taken a few art classes at their high-toned colleges.

References

Drew Faust and Wynton Marsalis. The Art of Learning. USA Today, January 2, 2014, p. 7A.

Danny Hakim. Obama's Treasury Nominee Got Unusual Exit Bonus on leaving N.Y.U. New York Times, February 25, 2013.  Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/nyregion/lew-treasury-nominee-got-exit-bonus-from-nyu.html?_r=0

George F. Will. How a Presidency Unravels. Washington Post, November 22, 2013.  Accessible at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-will-obamas-presidency-unravels-through-chaos-and-crisis/2013/11/22/57132e74-52de-11e3-a7f0-b790929232e1_story.html

 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

President Obama Did Not Tell the Truth About the Affordable Care Act: Where Was the President Educated?

Justice Ruth Ginsburg
It's OK to scam the rubes (wink!)
In Gratz v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court overturned an affirmative action program at the University of Michigan that used a point system to benefit minority applicants to the university.  In the majority opinion's view, the University of Michigan had unlawfully discriminated against white applicants in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

In a remarkable display of cynicism, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. She argued that the Court should allow American universities to discriminate based on race because they would do it anyway, even if they had to lie about it.

Here is what she said:
One can reasonably anticipate . . . that colleges and universities will seek to maintain their minority enrollment--and the networks and opportunities thereby opened to minority graduates--whether or not they can do so in full candor through adoption of affirmative action plans of the kind here at issue. Without recourse to such plans, institutions of higher education may resort to camouflage. . . . If honesty is the best policy, surely Michigan's accurately described, fully disclosed College affirmative action program is preferable to achieving similar numbers through winks, nods, and disguises. (emphasis supplied)
What an astonishing thing for a Supreme Court Justice to write. In her view, college administrators are so lacking in integrity that they will lie in order to achieve their desired social goals, even if their tactics violate the law.

And Justice Ginsburg did not condemn such behavior. Implicitly at least, Justice Ginsburg endorsed the view that the end justifies the means.  Affirmative action is so worthwhile, she apparently believes, that it is OK for college officials to engage in subterfuge--to camouflage their activities, to advance their goals through "winks, nods, and disguises."

President Obama, we now know, shares Justice Ginsburg's views about honesty. Universal health care is such a good thing, he believes, that it is permissible to lie repeatedly about how the new health care law actually works.

I'm part Cherokee (wink!)
Where did Justice Ginsburg and President Obama develop such cynical views about honesty and the law? Well they were both educated at Harvard Law School and both served on the Harvard Law Review. (Justice Ginsburg transferred from Harvard to Columbia Law School before she graduated.) Perhaps Harvard infected them with the elitist view that it is OK to scam the rubes.  After all, it is the elites--people like Ruth and Barack--who know what is best for people.

And if a Harvard Law Professor (Elizabeth Warren) wants to claim she's an American Indian, that's OK too. It is important for Harvard to claim it has a Native American law professor, whether or not it's true.

Harvard's motto is Veritas--the Latin word for truth.  In light of the leaders Harvard has produced in recent years, perhaps its motto should be tweaked a bit.  How about "Veritas (wink)".



Veritas (wink!)

References

Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003).



Monday, November 11, 2013

Gore Vidal bequeathed his entire estate to Harvard University, but he died anyway.

Gore Vidal died in 2012, leaving his entire estate to Harvard University. I'm sure he received a nice thank-you note. Harvard knows how to charm the suckers.

I know. I once received a letter from Harvard confirming my appointment as a teaching assistant. I think it was signed by the Provost. It came on fine stationery and closed with the words, "Your most obedient servant."  Of course the job only paid $300 a month, less than my family's monthly health health insurance bill. But a  letter from some Harvard muckety muck signed "Your most obedient servant" meant more to me then than a living wage. I kept the letter for years.

According to the New York Times, Vidal died in his home at age 86, tormented by alcoholism, incontinence, and dementia. Apparently, no one in his life meant more to him than Harvard, which gets the royalties from Vidal's book sales plus his $37 million estate.

But why give the money to Harvard, which after all has loads of money. Perhaps Gore Vidal sought to buy immortality. As one of his friends said in the New York Times story, "Gore was clearly
Gore Vidal in 2009
Photo credit: Wikipedia
uncomfortable talking about a wold without Gore Vidal. Nothing above immortality and world domination would ever be enough for him."

But a $37 million bequest to Harvard won't buy immortality. And Neither will Vidal's 25 novels.  Even literary giants die and their reputations fade into obscurity. Remember Norman Mailer, super egotist and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes? How many people read Armies of the Night last year do you suppose?

We all creep toward death, most of us in obscurity. I have no money to give to Harvard and wouldn't give it if I had.  Harvard figured that out years ago and stopped sending me its glossy Harvard magazine. I will never be rich, never be famous, never be powerful.

But I am comforted at this time in my life by my wife and family--comforts Mr. Vidal apparently never had, although he had a long time companion he loved very much. I am grateful for my small home in a friendly Southern town, by the beauty of South Louisiana's swamps and bayous, and by the mild and temperate sun that shines most days throughout our Southern winters.

And I am comforted by my faith.  I feel sure a priest will give me last rites in my final hours. I know I will have a funeral Mass at Christ the King Church on the LSU campus; and I am confident that at least some of my grandchildren will attend.  And surely someone will write my name in the Book of Remembrance and will pray for my soul now and then.

And in my remaining years, God will strengthen me with the Mass, with Christ's body and blood. And when bitter memories and regrets sweep over me, I am reassured by God's forgiveness.

I am sorry  Gore Vidal did not have these comforts in his final years. It made me sad to learn that this famous and dazzlingly creative man felt compelled in the last year of his life to make the pathetic gesture of giving the fruits of his life's work to a soulless university he never attended.

References

Tim Teeman. A Final Plot Twist. New York Times, November 10, 2013, Style Section, p. 1.

Monday, July 22, 2013

This explains so much! Lots of Obama's People Graduated From Elite Colleges

This explains so much!
I recall seeing a cartoon awhile back showing the puppet Ernie from Sesame Street at the doctor's office. Ernie and his doctor were viewing Ernie's x-ray, which showed a giant hand in Ernie's torso. "This explains so much," Ernie exclaimed.

Yes, and the National Journal's recent report showing where Obama administration officials went to college also explains a lot.  Among 250 prominent officials in the Obama administration, more received a graduate degree from Oxford University (the one in England) than any American public university.

More Obama officials got  their undergraduate degrees from Harvard than any other university.  Forty percent of the 250 Obama administrators got undergraduate degrees from Ivy League schools.  And if you added the one ones who went to other elite schools--Georgetown, University of Chicago, Williams, etc--I am sure we would find that more than half of them went to exclusive private colleges.

In my opinion, this is a bad thing and goes a long way toward explaining why the country is going to hell in a hand basket.

There is a common myth that people who graduate from elite colleges received an exceptional education and acquired skills and values that will make them valuable citizens.  But I don't think that's true. In fact,many of them acquire traits and outlooks that contribute to the degradation  of American culture.

Postmodernism. Most of the people who are schooled at our elite institutions are thoroughly indoctrinated  into the culture of postmodernism.  And what are the characteristics of postmodernism? Secularism (atheism); individualism (selfishness);  and relativism, the cynical worldview that there are no ultimate truths.

Without a moral compass to guide their lives, our postmodern elitists gravitate toward an obsessive drive for recognition, power, and gratification, which is portrayed so powerfully in the recent movie, The Ides of March.  In the beginning of the movie, the main character, played by Ryan Gosling, is a political idealist, but by the end he is a cynical, power-driven schemer, just like all the other political figures in the movie.

Provincialism. I received a doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education, which admittedly is the least prestigious school at Harvard; and so I won't say my experience was typical. Nevertheless, I was astonished by the provincialism of the people I met while I was at HGSE.

Most of them had only a hazy idea about United States history or geography. I think I could have given them a child's puzzle map of the United States and most of them would not have been able to put the states in their proper places.

We see this elite regionalism displayed when we look at where Obama's top advisers grew up. According to the National Journal report, half of the top people on Obama's second-administration team grew up in the Northeast corridor (including Maryland and Virginia) or oversees. Only 12 percent of his top people are from the South.

Racism and Bigotry. I also encountered a lot of racism and bigotry during the years I was at Harvard. Not the hard kind of bigotry that is stereotypically displayed in movies about the South, but a soft kind. People in my classes would make offhand remarks about the insensitivity of white males--the same people who would be sure to use the term "mentally challenged" instead of "retarded" when talking about people of limited intelligence.

And the obsession with affirmative action that infests our elite colleges is often nothing more than a thinly disguised contempt for working class white people. It would be one thing if affirmative action benefited a poor white kid who grew up in the Delta country of Arkansas without regard to race , but so often the beneficiary of affirmative action is a minority person who attended an elite private high school.

And bigotry toward Catholicism at our elite colleges? Hey, let's not go there. I've talked about that already.

Not Problem Solvers

It would be OK if Obama's top advisers all came from Harvard or some other elite school if these people were smarter than the rest of us.  But they are not.

Indeed, if Obama's advisers are so smart, what are we doing in Afghanistan?

If Obama's people are such great problem solvers, why haven't we taken one sensible step to solve the student-loan crisis or at least reduce the suffering of people who are overburdened by their college loans?

No Sense of Social Justice

Many of the graduates of our elite institutions believe they have a keen sense of social justice and are particularly sensitive to human rights issues.  But I don't think that is true either.

If these people have such a good sense of social justice, why is our economic system rigged such that pensioners and people on fixed incomes are forced put their retirement funds in the  risky stock market to get a decent return because the Fed keeps interest rates artificially low to benefit the banks?

And if Obama's people have such a keen pining for human rights, why won't Obama and his people allow Italy to extradite Robert Lady, the CIA operative who was convicted of involvement in a kidnapping in Milan?  How can the Obama administration howl for the rule of law when it comes to Edward Snowden while helping Robert Lady avoid the justice that was meted out for him in Italy.

And what about Guantanamo?

What about those drones?

No this country would be better off if we declared a moratorium on Ivy League graduates serving in any public office at the national level--and that includes the Supreme Court, which is stuffed with nine old fogies who all graduated from either Harvard Law School or Yale Law School.

I am only kidding of course. We can't ban people from public office just because they went to Harvard. My point, however is this: Our elite colleges are not preparing people to be good public servants. We need to put people in positions of authority who are truly civic minded, and many of the leaders we need received their education at good public universities, including the universities of the Midwest, the Rocky Mountain West, and the South.

References

Brian Resnick & Brian McGill. More Top Obama Officials Have Graduate Degrees from Oxford Than Any Public University in the United States. National Journal, July 19, 2013. Accessible at:
http://www.nationaljournal.com/decision-makers/more-top-obama-officials-have-graduate-degrees-from-oxford-than-any-public-university-in-the-united-states-20130719