Ivy snobs

Megan McArdle’s attack on the elitism of the educated is stirring up a storm of comment

Let’s be honest, coastal folks: when you meet someone with a thick southern accent who likes NASCAR and attends a bible church, do you think, “hey, maybe this is a cool person”? And when you encounter someone who went to Eastern Iowa State, do you accord them the same respect you give your friends from Williams? It’s okay — there’s no one here but us chickens. You don’t.

Maybe you don’t know you’re doing it. But I have quite brilliant friends who grew up in rural areas and went to state schools — not Michigan or UT, but ordinary state schools — who say that, indeed, when they mention where they went to school, there’s often a droop in the eyelids, a certain forced quality to the smile. Oh, Arizona State. Great weather out there. Don’t I need a drink or something? This person couldn’t possibly interest me.

After I was graduated from Stanford, my parents started going on cruises sponsored by the Stanford Alumni Association. At the first get-together, everyone wore name tags with their Stanford year or the name of their alma mater. My father told me he decided University of Nebraska wouldn’t win him enough respect. “I put Harvard,” he said. (I think he was kidding.)

Of course, all this is about Sarah Palin, who attended several colleges before earning a communications degree at University of Idaho.

In the New York Times, David Brooks advises Obama to attack the snobbery of his supporters.

Specifically, he needs to attack the snobs who are savaging Sarah Palin’s faith and family. Many liberals claim to love working-class families, but the moment they glimpse a hunter with an uneven college record, they hop on chairs and call for disinfectant. Obama needs to attack Bill Maher for calling her a stewardess and the rest of the coastal condescenders.

Much of the Clinton-Obama primaries seemed to focus on who was more of a regular guy. Obama can’t bowl! I guess that’s the reverse snobbery of the working class.

About Joanne


  1. I find it interesting that there is a lot of focus on Palin’s higher ed record and not Biden’s. I teach at the University of Idaho and earned my B.S. at the University of Delaware (Biden’s alma mater). I can tell you that the student body compositions of both universities are very similar, i.e. SAT/ACT scores, financial aid, working class parents. UD is not known for its Political Science neither is UI for Communications. Biden did go on to Law School but was 76th out of 80 at Syracuse, not exactly an elite institution. Furthermore, he has been dogged with plagiarism throughout his career. See:




  2. I guess I’m just not sophisticated enough to understand how the same people who will savage George W. Bush for being a “dummy”, will also unthinkingly assume that every OTHER graduate of an Ivy is loaded with brains.

    Hey, folks, someone in every class – even the Ivies – graduates last. ‘Ya think that person may be outclassed by a top-of-their-class state college grad?

    All attending an Ivy shows definitely is that the graduate had the cash to attend – or was willing to borrow it.

  3. I also graduated from a small state college with my BA. I did go to a much larger division I school in the Midwest for my MA. The only difference I noticed in the curriculum is that my small, state school prepared me for graduate work well enough that I found few of my classes intellectually challenging. What I noticed about the students that I taught there as a GTA and the students I now teach back at my alma mater is that the students at the smaller school almost invariably do better than the ones at the larger school. They come to me more prepared to do the work, and far more willing to do it. Their results are better, too.

    Honestly, I think I have less respect for larger, more prestigious schools than I do smaller, state schools.

  4. A college is a college. However, it’s suspicious to me when someone hops around a lot between colleges like Palin did–what’s up with that?

    (And in case someone asks–I went to two colleges for my BA, picked up a professional certificate at a third, and got my Masters at a fourth. Four colleges, three degrees)

    Meanwhile, after the Newsweek cover that just came out, this liberal Democrat (from rural roots) who happens to live in a big city and who has spent more than a wee bit of time handling guns as a hunter, has to say that Palin’s hunting creds are more than a wee bit suspicious to me. Or, at least, if she routinely carries a shotgun like she does on that Newsweek cover, I sure don’t want to be in a hunt field with her.

    I’ve yet to see a genuine pic of Palin hunting that looks anything like the other women hunters I know. She doesn’t look comfortable at all with any of the guns I’ve seen her with.

  5. I received a prestigious graduate fellowship in the early 90s. At our 2 day orientation there was a lot of jovial camaraderie among the 13-15 of us scholars during the Friday night mixer. The next morning we got to the official team building, which included introductions. I was the only one from a public university…Montana State Univ. Interesting how the attitudes of my fellows shifted from that point forward. Not hostility, just quiet diffidence.

  6. I’m not a snob about where someone went to school, only about what their major field of study was. Communications? That’s not a real discipline.

  7. Joycem said, “A college is a college. However, it’s suspicious to me when someone hops around a lot between colleges like Palin did–what’s up with that?”

    Perhaps she was trying to find a college that was up to meeting her intellectual standards. They are hard to find nowadays, you know.

    Joycem continued, “Meanwhile, after the Newsweek cover that just came out, this liberal Democrat (from rural roots) who happens to live in a big city and who has spent more than a wee bit of time handling guns as a hunter, has to say that Palin’s hunting creds are more than a wee bit suspicious to me.”

    Yes, this certainly merits an investigation. Because if she doesn’t have “hunting creds,” this clearly disqualifies her for the office of Vice President. Let’s hope that the MSM media investigates this right away. Oh, that investigation will have to wait? They’re still busy trying to prove that she didn’t wash her hands after using the bathroom.


  8. Foobarista says:

    Joycem: life happens. My brother will finally graduate this year after six JCs and universities over fourteen years, mixed in with way too much “life”. If he ever runs for VP, the “press vetting” of it wouldn’t all be flattering, but much of it would be quite understandable.

    And, to his credit, he won’t have a dime of student loan debt.

    Students who run through college in four uninterrupted years are far more the outlier than the norm nowadays.

  9. Obama might not be too terribly convincing telling others not to attack Gov. Palin’s faith after he described people from fly-over country as bitter and clinging to their guns and religion.

  10. I’m not even a feminist, yet I find the glaring sexist double standard appalling. I know elitist snobbery is part of the strange attacks on Palin, but I do think simple sexism is the root of the problem.

  11. Stephen Hardis, then chairman & CEO of Eaton Corporation (80,000 employees), said that he often experimented at cocktail parties — comparing the response he gets when he introduces himself by talking about his educational background (positive), vs. as the head of a big industrial company (negative)

    “It’s not only considered dull,” he says, “there’s an intellectual disdain for people who go into industrial America. It’s as if they can’t make it in these other parts of the economy.”

    Something is very strange when a 50-year-old man finds there is more interest in his college years than in his present vast managerial responsibilities.

  12. However, it’s suspicious to me when someone hops around a lot between colleges like Palin did–what’s up with that?”


    Don’t let your prejudice show much. I went to a state college where I played basketball for 2 years – left and returned as a part time commuter student – worked nites and went part time days. While I can honestly say I didn’t really enjoy college I did earn a degree but had little or no interaction with the college community and have no attachment whatsoever to the school. It’s been at least 5 years since I’ve seen or heard from anyone there. Obviously not everyone has the same college experience.

  13. Silly Old Mom says:

    Communications? That’s not a real discipline.

    There are all kinds of majors that don’t fit the mold of a “college education.” But most kids go to college to get the slip of paper that tells employers, “I’m smarter than dirt.”

    Maybe I’m a little biased, since I was a Communications grad myself. I had the brains to do all kinds of things, but when I entered college I wanted to be the next Jane Pauley. So I went to a small private college where I could get my hands on real video equipment as a freshman or sophomore.

    The current issue of The American magazine has a great cover story on college — how it’s become very expensive vocational ed for most people, and how college as we know it is rapidly becoming obsolete.

    At least Palin got to use her journalism training. I ended up not using much of mine, like a lot of college grads. (Sheesh, my brother is 32 and he’s still bouncing around from school to school.) Palin became a sportscaster after U Idaho. She doesn’t seem to have spent her entire life aiming for high office, which is part of her appeal for many voters.

  14. Joycem: Frankly, I didn’t find the picture on the Newsweek cover all that odd. I have seen many hunters carry a shotgun over the shoulder. But don’t take it from me, the National Skeet Shooting Association has a video on You Tube that discusses how to carry a shotgun, and wouldn’t you know it, one of the recommended ways to carry it is broken open, over the shoulder, muzzle down, with hands on the muzzle to provide complete control. That Newsweek cover could have been straight from their training video.

  15. The prejudice about alma maters cuts both ways. Graduates of schools like Harvard or Stanford learn very quickly to give vague answers about where they studied in many social situations. “Oh, I went to college in Boston” often times gets a much more positive response than what’s known as “dropping the H-bomb”. There’s very much a stereotype out there about graduates of elite colleges that many of us simply don’t want tainting others’ first impressions of us.