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Posted November 24, 2005
America's Ruling Class Has Lost its Sense of Noblesse Oblige
Ross Gregory Douthat insightfully tells us that today's 'ruling class,' composed of the graduates of Harvard and other elite institutions, has lost its sense of noblesse oblige. This is so because our country has become so meritocratic. Douthat tells us that Harvard students feel they deserve to be there because they are the most talented and have worked so incredibly hard in high school to compile an impressive enough resume to get in. 'They belong exactly where they are---the standardized test scores and college admissions officers have spoken, and their word is final.' Our meritocratic society has reduced the arbitrariness of a student's acceptance at elite schools, and there will be less arbitrariness than in days-gone-by about a Harvardian's place in America's elite when he or she graduates. This attitude contrasts with that of Harvard students and graduates of 100 years ago ('in the days before Verdun and Passchendaele'). In those days students were accepted and attended because of birth, i.e. their parents had the money, their families had social connections, etc. Douthat tells us that ideals of noblesse oblige grew from the 'knowledge that God (or blind chance) had given the elite much that was not necessarily deserved.' Douthat goes on to tell us that 'on Harvard's campus reminders of that vanished era are everywhere...in inscriptions, on bridges and gates, that offer exhortations redolent with late-Victorian themes of honor and chivalry, patriotism and piety...ENTER TO GROW IN WISDOM, Dexter Gate tells those who pass through, and DEPART TO BETTER SERVE THY COUNTRY AND THY KIND.' However, Douthat also tells us that 'No one speaks like this anymore---not at Harvard....' Because at today's Harvard, according to Douthat, knowledge of the source of noblesse oblige 'has been wiped away. The modern elite's rule is regarded not as arbitrary, but as just right and true, at least if one follows the logic of meritocracy to its logical conclusion.' As a result, Harvard students are concerned only with themselves and their personal success, and Douthat's memoir points to apparently real life characters, like Suzanne Pomey, as examples of the troubled path down which this attitude can take us. Douthat's comparison of her with Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby is well done. 'Society gets the sociopath it deserves,' warns Douthat, and for this reason Harvard alumni, students, faculty and administration should read this well written memoir. A novel that contains an excellent contrast of a pre-World War I Harvard graduate with a late 20th Century Harvard graduate, and the themes from Douthat's book that I have discussed above, is 'American Blue Blood' by William C. Codington.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 28, 2005
This book is hilarious he talks about Ivy League he needs to go to Historically Black Colleges they are even worse speaking for someone who graduated from the creme of the crop (Howard University)when you have Dignitaries children flunking out and politicans childrens strung out on drugs this is absolutly true nothing is required of you at these elite schools the only way you get in is through somebody you know i.e. parents(Alumni)know intellectual authority at these schools nothing,so this book to me is on point.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 24, 2005
Friends we've had
Mr. Douthat's book isn't just a critique of the Ivy League Educational system. It's a story of love, hope, and the friends who have passed in and out of our lives. It's also pretty funny at times.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.