Sep 30, 2009

SCHERZO on SNOB APPEAL, or Banjo Meandering

Like a little town, any school’s world is a corral, and those within are cattle mooing at or about each other—old beef and young beef. If you are a cow, you can’t see beyond the corral, even if you were out there once, in another life, or yesterday. If you’ve forgotten how to be a free-range cow, you’ll never re-learn.

About schools with real or imagined prestige: How many places outside Wall Street and the Mayo Clinic elevate a pedigree to such dubiously high status?

Well, I guess I do it too. (Therefore, it must not be entirely irrational or elitist . . . ). I’ve conceded to myself that Harvard does pronounce and produce something that Bowling Green State University does not, and my closest friends and I went to the Bowling Greens of the world.

Mind you, none of that means I like these facts about the world or myself. In fact, I’ve gone through periods of collecting coffee mugs, T-shirts, and the like from out-of-the-way places with decidedly un-blue blood: Chadron State, Bloomsburg, Minot State, Centre College (spelling noted). I was 20,000 leagues into reverse elitism.

A year or so ago, I was on the Yale campus, and even as an old fart, I was intimidated. What 18-year-old thinks that he or she belongs at such a place? Is entitled to such a place? Will contribute to such a place? Will not foul the air of such a place? Will not leave such a place all puffed about nothing (or something--puffed is puffed)?

Why don’t those freshmen flee to Morehead State? What Yale professor fails to see through the pretense and pedantry and accomplishment of such a place, where the very stones in the buildings pronounce Pretense, Pedantry, Self-Congratulation. And achievement. And life of the mind.

Oh, the donkeys I have known from the Ivies and their ilk.
Oh, the dingbats I have known from Swampside State and Foothills U.

Recently, my primary care physician referred me to a dermatologist (for a minor problem). The new guy had a Ph.D. as well as an M.D. from, let’s say Cal Tech and Johns Hopkins. It mattered. My doctor's recommendation mattered more, but Dr. Newbie's pedigree also mattered, and I hate that. If it weren’t my body, I’d have wanted him to fail. But of course, it was my body.


Anonymous said...

I can't go there with you on that. Never cared.

Unknown said...

I think to a certain degree, everyone is self-educated, and someone who went to, say, Delta State University (Go, Fighting Okra!) might, if motivated enough, make more of themselves than someone who went to an Ivy League School. Don't forget George W. Bush went to Yale. The potential for pretense is high for those attending elite schools. My wife and I provided a night's lodging for a couple members of a choir from an exclusive small college, the location of which I won't disclose, when they performed a concert in South Bend. When we drove them by the campus, one of the girls referred to it as "Notra Dahm" instead of the universally accepted, if rustic, "Note-er Daym." I wanted to shake her and say, "Honey, you're not in Paris, you're in Indiana!"

Anonymous said...

I like David. But then, I like Indiana.

Banjo52 said...

David, welcome! Especially after visiting your blog . . Welcome!

I wonder if I gave the wrong impression. I HATE the whole pedigree thing, having watched seemingly normal, good people go psychotic over real and imagined name value. I also wonder how much something like that informed the banking failures, in the form of an old boys' network.

But I'm also confessing that, if I have little else to go on, I can by swayed, unless my better angels take over (they usually do, at least in this arena).

By the way, 'at air Note-er Daym is one purty campus, ain't it? And if it's purty, they must be smart. Right? Right? Right?

Lovers' Lane