Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Harvard of Harvards

-Frank Bruni has some words of comfort for college applicants/their parents. It doesn't matter where a kid goes to college! How liberating! Except Exhibit A is a kid who didn't do so great in college admissions, but ended up in euphemistic Boston for post-college studies. It doesn't matter where you go to college, because there's always Harvard grad school! Which does kind of cut against the prestige-rejection message. It's a bit like the narrative that tells young women they shouldn't worry about anything so generic as finding a husband, and should focus instead on their own careers and interests... until they reach 30, at which point ideally the independent spirit they cultivated in their 20s will have succeeded in that ultimate of end goals, snagging a man.

-Assorted feminism-and-contrarianism links: Elizabeth Nolan Brown praises Laura Kipnis's defense of faculty-student romance. Katha Pollitt takes the now-controversial stance that abortion should be presented as a women's issue. (Controversial, that is, not because the would-be father might want a say, but because not everyone who's biologically female identifies as a woman.) And Ann Friedman rejects the joyful-self-expression-through-clothes approach of Women In Clothes.

-Speaking of clothes: When an admired dress turns out to be well over $300, only available in Japan, and sold out, one approach would be to scour eBay and whatever the advanced version of that sort of research is, and to find the place where the very same dress can be bought, and for much less money. I made a gesture or two in that direction, but realized early on that this was a dead end, or, rather, that the investigation necessary to make it otherwise wasn't worthwhile. (If only I had the same level of commitment to this that Ilana's mother has for knockoff handbags.) But I've been keeping an eye out for dresses that might resemble The Dress, at least in spirit. And oddly enough, this, once on, produced a similar effect. Or I see how it might, with proper styling. That, or it's a potato sack. I haven't cut the tag just yet. The same trip to the mothership also yielded a mid-length skirt of the kind that - according to Instagram and my now-fading memory of the place - is favored by many chic women in Japan. If today ever gets past the vacuuming-and-taxes-in-pajamas stage, perhaps a performance of femininity along these lines is in order.


Andrew Stevens said...

It is probably not a coincidence that Frank Bruni himself graduated Phi Beta Kappa from North Carolina and then attended Columbia's School of Journalism. If you're planning a career which includes graduate school, I think he's quite right that where you go for your undergrad degree is much less important than where you go to graduate school even in the prestige-obsessed fields.

For what it's worth, I didn't get the sense that Bruni was writing an anti-elitism or prestige-rejection argument so much as a "don't sweat the undergraduate admissions process; it's not as important as you think" argument.

Phoebe said...

"For what it's worth, I didn't get the sense that Bruni was writing an anti-elitism or prestige-rejection argument so much as a 'don't sweat the undergraduate admissions process; it's not as important as you think' argument."

That's an interesting reading, and probably the most generous one possible. I'd read it as yet another piece arguing that college should be a learning experience that builds character and not about anything so crass as being a Big Deal after graduation.

But if this is his point... I'm not sure who he's arguing against with his anecdotes. Of course it isn't Harvard or the gutter, and of course there are individuals from lower-ranked schools who end up more conventionally successful than individuals from higher-ranked ones. But it's still all-things-equal better, in terms of keeping options open, to have gone to a big-name school, particularly now that those can offer better financial-aid packages, so there isn't necessarily the issue of a lower-ranked school costing less.

I guess what it comes down to is, is the amount it helps to go to a top college in proportion to the amount people care about this? Which seems like a tough thing to measure. But perhaps Bruni's found a way to do so in his book.