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On Academic Elitism


Published May 27, 2008 at 2:22 p.m.

Graduation season just came and went. For recent graduates and their parents, that meant silly hats and free mini hot dogs. But college degrees, lest we forget, are also important political tools, not to mention bell weathers of class warfare, social inequality and other less-savory aspects of the American Dream.

Jumping on the annual graduation-related-story bandwagon, Sunday's New York Times explored America's "ambivalent" obsession with educational cred. In her think piece, "The Snare of Privilege," reporter Elizabeth Bumiller pointed out that, despite their populist rhetoric, all three presidential candidates are graduates of elite universities.

(Curious to know which ones? Obama went to Columbia and Harvard; Clinton to Wellesley and Yale and McCain to the U.S. Naval Academy.)

"In an increasingly populist country," Bumiller wrote, "it’s not surprising that allthree presidential contenders have been sprinting away from the elitistlabel for much of this primary season. But do they really expect to getaway with it?"

"More to the point," she added, "should they? Don’t voters want the best and brightest, and best-credentialed, rising to the top?"