"Last week the excellent David Brooks, in one of his columns in the New York Times, exulted over the quality of people President-elect Barack Obama was enlisting in his new cabinet and onto his staff. The chief evidence for these people being so impressive, it turns out, is they all went to what the world--'that ignorant ninny,' as Henry James called it--thinks superior schools, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, the London School of Economics; like dead flies on flypaper, the names of schools Obama's new appointees attended dotted Brooks column. ... This administration will be, as Brooks writes, 'a valedictocracy.' The assumption here is that having all these good students--many of them possible 'toll-frees,' as high school students who get 800s on their SATs used to be known in admissions offices--running the country is obviously a good thing. ... Since my appreciation of David Brooks is considerable, and since I agree with him on so many things, why don't I agree with him here? ... The reason is that, after teaching at a university for 30 years, I have come to distrust the type I think of as 'the good student'--that is, the student who sails through school and is easily admitted into the top colleges and professional schools. The good student is the kid who works hard in high school, piles up lots of activities, and scores high on his SATs, and for his efforts gets into one of the 20 or so schools in the country that ring the gong of sucess. ... His perfect resume in hand, he runs only one risk--that of catching cold from the draft created by all the doors opening up for him wherever he goes, as he piles up scads of money, honors, and finally ends up being offered a job at a high level of government. He has, in a sense Spike Lee never intended, done the right thing. ... My sense of the good student is that, while in class, he really has only one pertinent question, which is, What does this guy, his professor at the moment, want? ... Harvard--and Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and the --others--has over the past three or four decades made this contentment easy to achieve. All these schools have done so by becoming, at least in their humanities and social sciences sides, more and more mired in the mediocre. ... In recent years I have come to think that some of the worst people in the United States have gone to Harvard or Yale Law Schools: Mr. and Mrs. Eliot Spitzer, Mr. and Mrs. William Clinton, and countless others. And why not, since these institutions serve as the grandest receptacles in the land for our good students: those clever, sometimes brilliant, but rarely deep young men and women who, joining furious drive to burning if ultimately empty ambition, will do anything to get ahead", Joseph Epstein (JE), 8 December 2008 at http://www.weeklystandard.com/Utilities/printer_preview.asp?idArticle=15857&R=13D311E601.
I read Brooks, thought of posting on it, but will just quote Spengler. I love this guy. He channels my thoughts. Or I his. I disagree about pursuading the taxpayers. Joe Schmoe wants to see Zegna-suited bankers led to the guillotine or the hanging tree. I make the same observation about private equitys' returns and leverage here, 19 November 2008: http://skepticaltexascpa.blogspot.com/2008/11/lbos-and-banks.html.
JE is a professor at Northwestern University. His description of an ambitious mediocrity fits our current chief justice to a "T", my 19 July 2008 post: http://skepticaltexascpa.blogspot.com/2008/07/john-roberts-supreme-fraud.html. I trashed our Supremes on 26 January 2008, here: http://skepticaltexascpa.blogspot.com/2008/01/supreme-injustice.html. What do these Law School geniuses know? See my 22 December 2007 post citing Raymond Woodcock, JD/MBA Columbia, http://skepticaltexascpa.blogspot.com/2007/12/us-injustice-system-at-work.html.