Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class

Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class

by Ross Gregory Douthat
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Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class by Ross Gregory Douthat

Now in paperback, the penetrating critique of elite universities and the culture of privilege they perpetuate

Ross Gregory Douthat arrived at Harvard University in the fall of 1998 carrying an idealized vision of Ivy League life. But the Harvard of his dreams, an institution fueled by intellectual curiosity and entrusted with the keys to liberal education, never materialized. Instead, he found himself in a school rife with elitism and moneyed excess, an incubator for the grasping and ambitious, a college seduced by the religion of success.

So Douthat was educated at Harvard, but what Harvard taught him was not what he had gone there to learn. Instead, he was immersed in the culture of America's ever-swelling ruling class—a culture of privilege, of ambition and entitlement, in which a vast network of elite schools are viewed by students, parents, administrators, and professors more as stepping-stones to high salaries and coveted social networks than as institutions entrusted with academic excellence.

Privilege is a powerfully rendered portrait of a young manhood, a pointed social critique of this country's most esteemed institutions, and an exploration of issues such as affirmative action, grade inflation, political correctness, and curriculum reform.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401307554
Publisher: Hyperion
Publication date: 03/01/2006
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 1,219,746
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.68(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

While at Harvard, Ross Gregory Douthat wrote a biweekly column for the Harvard Crimson and edited the Harvard Salient. He now works at the Atlantic Monthly and lives in Washington, D.C.

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Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Jamie_Turner More than 1 year ago
This book by a recent Harvard graduate is amusing and well-written. Ross Douthat came to Harvard expecting to find an environment composed of smart students, great professors and the finest in undergraduate learning. What he found was something very different, and this is the story of how he came to terms with it. The title makes the book sound like an indictment, and indeed there is in the early chapters an underlying current of disappointment, but before long it's clear Ross eventually grew to love the place, warts and all. Readers familiar with Harvard University will find the book most enjoyable, but anyone who has, either as a parent or a student, seen the modern university up close will find it worthwhile.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.