THE Gretchenfrage is this: Should honest, intelligent parents from a not so-privileged background send their inexperienced offspring to the Ivy League when they know (and have been warned by the likes of Prof. Deresiewicz) that over there their morals and values could be severely compromised?
They will see a world so privileged, so spoilt, arrogant, so well-connected, and so over-the-top conceited, that this could seriously affect their mental well-being.
Oh, sure, the kids of the working class may compete on a grade-level with the sons and daughters of the US ruling class, academic dynasties, congressmen, the global plutocracy, Chinese top officials, the Jewish connection, Eastern princes and Arab sheiks; but they may forever feel as social climbers, freaks, outcasts, and they will almost certainly practice self-segregation, not being morally prepared (letting alone equally resourceful) to mingle with the high class and well-bred.
Let me illustrate this culture shock: Imagine you go to high security prison for the extremely “talented” gangsters but refuse to accept the reality of their place being perverted by a certain ethical code that is patriarchy, violence, revenge, and, well, the law of the jungle. You cannot resist the rules of the turf, it's impossible. It gets to you.
So, if you are weak on that ethical code, don't go to prison. And don't hang out with people that are affiliated with crime culture. The Ivy League is also an extreme place, much more difficult to get into than a state prison, granted, but no less perverted by a certain ethical code that is corruption, nepotism, cronyism, and elitism. In a nutshell: a certain kind of people is drawn to this elitist culture to improve their precious skills.
You will see and witness things at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, etc. that, if you come from a descent and humble background, may be impossible to comprehend -the arrogance, the abundance, the dining, wining, and doing favors. This culture of entitlement is clearly not for everyone.
There are many other excellent universities (and even other countries, imagine that!) that have smart teachers and great libraries and are much more down to earth, more diverse, and better for the soul. In fact, Ivy League, this notion and concept, is quite an American invention. It doesn't exist anywhere in the world in such an obscene, institutionalized form.
That the Americans indulge in this extreme segregation of their society into the privileged 1% and the 99% human soup is painful to watch, but a deep-seated problem in all Anglo-Saxon cultures, I'm afraid. That's why they were so successful at imperialism and colonialism, they still are: They grant much more freedom to their subjects (than the Germans, French, or Japanese imperialists of old were ever willing to grant), as long as the 1% stay in power and benefit.
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After all, the Anglo-British still have their monarchs, royalties, the House of Lords, posh grammar schools like Eton, and their snobbish Oxbridge.
In such a pathological, rapacious, and impenetrable class society, education isn't about knowledge (if it ever was) at all, it is solely about privilege. The books on the shelves are all the same. What is studied doesn't matter as much as where it is studied. And so, many American families -and more so the rich and powerful clans in all corners of the world- would give their life, pay a fortune, and sell their soul to send someone of their own to Harvard. Just for the name of it. And f*** that education!
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