Ross Douthat: Ivy League culture perpetuates social inequality

Twitter users on both Left and Right hailed New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s column today:

Douthat’s argument is that Ivy League schools such as Princeton University are mainly about establishing and perpetuating social connections among elite Americans:

SUSAN PATTON, the Princeton alumna who became famous for her letter urging Ivy League women to use their college years to find a mate, has been denounced as a traitor to feminism, to coeducation, to the university ideal. But really she’s something much more interesting: a traitor to her class.

Her betrayal consists of being gauche enough to acknowledge publicly a truth that everyone who’s come up through Ivy League culture knows intuitively — that elite universities are about connecting more than learning, that the social world matters far more than the classroom to undergraduates, and that rather than an escalator elevating the best and brightest from every walk of life, the meritocracy as we know it mostly works to perpetuate the existing upper class.

The intermarriage of elite collegians is only one of these mechanisms — but it’s an enormously important one. The outraged reaction to her comments notwithstanding, Patton wasn’t telling Princetonians anything they didn’t already understand. Of course Ivy League schools double as dating services. Of course members of elites — yes, gender egalitarians, the males as well as the females — have strong incentives to marry one another, or at the very least find a spouse from within the wider meritocratic circle. What better way to double down on our pre-existing advantages? What better way to minimize, in our descendants, the chances of the dread phenomenon known as “regression to the mean”?

As @ExJon notes, New York Times readers (many of whom presumably attended elite colleges) didn’t think much of Douthat’s argument:

These commenters have very high opinions of their own intellectual abilities, but are they as smart as they think?

Bingo.

Update:

@ExJon catalogues more comments from snotty NY Times readers:

blog comments powered by Disqus