Meritocracy, Elitism, and Class Issues

<p>I've just finished a book written in the 1980ies by Paul Fussell called "A Guide Through the American Class System". I found the book very interesting and amusing but at times also disconcerting. Anyway, BS and the elite colleges particularly the Ivies have historically at least through the early to mid 1960ies typically been predominately for members of the UC or wealthy.</p>

<p>Fussell states that "Americans have had to depend for their mechanism of snobbery far more than other peoples on their college and university hierarchy." In another section he writes "Americans are the only people in the world known to me whose status anxiety prompts them to advertise their college and university affiliationns in the rear windows of their automobiles. You can drive all over Europe without once seeing a rear-window sticker reding 'Christ Church' or 'Universite de Paris'.</p>

<p>I've observed for years in the suburb that I live in the stickers and the conversations about where C is going to college in the supermarket and around town. I know that a lot has happened over the last 50 years or so to open these schools to others. Looking at the socioeconomic diversity of such schools as Andover and Exeter by looking at the number of students on FA progress has been made.</p>

<p>I wonder how this might play into your experience with looking for a BS for your children.</p>

<p>In my town, very, very few kids go to bs. I can count on the number on one hand. And two of those are mine. Because of the lack of boarding school culture here, it wouldn't matter if my daughter was going to Andover, Mercersburg or Cate. All three would be unknown.<br>
When we were looking at schools, I quickly got over the perceived status attached to one school over another. She loved them all for different reasons. </p>

<p>I feel the same about colleges and university. There are thousands of "perfect" schools out there.
zp</p>

<p>I doubt any parent is going to raise their hand and say "Yes, that HADES sticker on the back of my Volvo station wagon is important to me." even if a school's reputation matters a lot to their decision-making process. That said, I think many of us would be lying if we claimed it didn't matter at all.</p>

<p>The thing is, the "brand name" schools earned their reputations for the most part because they have offered a good product (and good results!) for a long, long time.</p>

<p>I think what really matters is how much you buy into the whole "status" thing and how important it is versus the appropriateness of any school for your child. As long as you're comfortable with it, that's all that really matters.</p>

<p>People of all sorts and in all geographies wear logos. This is just one manifestation. Frankly it bespeaks aspiration to achievement and success that is definitely American in a good way. I'll take that over hereditary class systems or Louis Vuitton logos any time. :)</p>

<p>Flowers, Our neighborhood is also full of those stickers! Though our children go to a private school, we chose not to display them. I believe the kids will make themselves who they want to be and write their own futures and the type of school they go to will only help a little at best. We all know successful people come from both regular and elite schools.</p>

<p>Great topic. My parents grew up amongst the elites and intentionally removed me and sibs from that world. Their experiences were not good. As an adult I chose to leave the northeast in part because of the bumper sticker/cocktail party conversation "where did YOU go to school" culture. For me, anyway, I want to always be more intrinsically/spiritually motivated and I found that harder to do in a more competitive environment. That said, I also have always felt that education is the only way to understand the world, and watching as our public schools become completely corporatized has been so disheartening. Did you see the MSNBC headline last night about how the research on class size in inconclusive? This is absolute B<strong><em>s</em></strong>! Which came first -- the narrowing of the curriculum or the increase in class sizes? Don't get me started...</p>

<p>It has been a bitter pill to swallow but now here I am with one child thriving in a wonderful BS and the other on the way (this year or next...). My father might be rolling in his grave (though internally proud :)). People where we live think we're either "typical east coasters" or neglectful parents, so it's lonely going for a family that was very involved in the community. </p>

<p>My husband quotes Paul Fussell all the time, in other contexts. Thanks flowers123 for allowing a critical perspective.</p>

<p>Many parents in foreign countries hang their hopes on their child getting into the elite schools. It's more prevalent than we think. There's a snob issue in every industrialized country. The right school - the right connections, etc. </p>

<p>On the other hand, IVY is a dirty word in the midwest. Here people celebrate you if you go to a state school and look at you like a pariah if you say "MIT" when asked about your college. It's assumed you are a snob. My DH and I finally got fed up with all the car stickers advertising regional schools and picked up stickers for our own on our last trip to Boston. And laugh at the evil stares we get.</p>

<p>I recently received a call from a local woman who needed advice for her college-age daughter whose degree is similar to mine. She was referred by a mutual friend. </p>

<p>I asked "where does your daughter go to the school?"</p>

<p>pause</p>

<p>"New England."</p>

<p>"Okay - where in NE?"</p>

<p>pause</p>

<p>"New Jersey,"</p>

<p>"Well I have friends there. So where in New Jersey?"</p>

<p>long, long, long pause followed by a sigh...</p>

<p>"Princeton."</p>

<p>Turns out, she's been villified so often for saying that here in town, she and her daughter hide it in euphemisms. I laughed, said "I'm MIT" and she didn't know what that was. After I explained, she relaxed and we had a great conversation.</p>

<p>That's the crux of the problem. The impressions about elite seem mostly limited to the east coast and west coasts. And a smattering of larger cities in the middle like Chicago, et al. Deep in the heartland, it's pretty conservative and they don't like *'them there liberal elite schools with their snobby ways.<a href="sigh">/i</a>. It's considered a threat to the "traditional way of life." East coast people in my (major big city) tend to suffer at corporations unless the management also went to college outside of the region. Sabotage is common (and sometimes hilarious in its ineptitude.)</p>

<p>IVY Adcoms don't even interview here anymore because they got tired of parents telling them they didn't want their children to go away more than an hour or two from home. </p>

<p>Hence, my daughter spotting the trend early and asking BS's if they had extradition treaties that would allow her to attend schools in a more progressive area of the country. :-) .....Exie</p>

<p>Wow, last 3 posts all super impressive. We are also of the "no sticker" bent, although they're quite prevalent in our elite college town. When my kids would ask me about the no sticker policy when they were younger, I would tell them it isn't about where you go, it's about what you're doing.</p>

<p>On the other hand, you can't fault anyone for having pride in their alma mater. </p>

<p>The person playing coy about her daughter at Princeton is apparently also concerned about being judged by her peers...</p>

<p>It's funny how that works. I find myself trumpeting my underappreciated LAC while subtlely deemphasizing the fact that I attended an Ivy grad school. DH and I both say things like "We met at XYZ college, then lived in Cambridge for a few years."</p>

<p>After homeschooling for many years and seeing everyone else's cars with "My Child Got Honors at <strong><em>" I wanted a sticker. Stuck that Exeter sticker on the back of my car not even knowing there is a small farming town in northern California called Exeter. We got so many comments along the lines of "I'm from Exeter too" or "I'm from _</em></strong> valley, we're neighbors" and we got tired of explaining that is was the name of a school in New Hampshire and getting those blank stares that we took the sticker off the car. </p>

<p>Then we got to put University of Pennsylania on the car. The comments "Oh Penn-state" became commonplace. Or more blank stares implying why would you send your child to a state school in Pennsylvania when we have so many good state schools in California. </p>

<p>So I tried and I failed.</p>

<p>ROFL! Exactly. :-)</p>

<p>The best bumper sticker I saw said, "My ADHD child can run circles around your honor student." The worst was one that said, "My child is loved at XYZ school." :rolleyes: <-- That one made me want to create one that said, "My child is loved at home." but I thought it might come across as **<strong><em>y. ;) I opted for the "Kill your TV" which was both *</em></strong>*y AND bossy. :D</p>

<p>It censored *****y????? c'mon. This is the parent's forum! </p>

<p>EDIT: "It made me sound rhymes with witchy."</p>

<p>I don't suppose you know the song, "Hi-Fi Stereo Color TV"? Folk</a> & Traditional Song Lyrics - Hi Fi, Stereo, Color TV</p>

<p>You know, I read Fussell some time ago. My mind insists on remembering him as "Fussy Fussell."</p>

<p>I enjoy Sandra Tsing Loh. I suppose we would best be category X. <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/03/class-dismissed/7274/%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/03/class-dismissed/7274/&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>In our neck of the woods, people usually don't wear sweatshirts with their own college's logo.</p>

<p>In the interest of clarity, my sticker reads:</p>

<p>"A School Your Kid Couldn't Get Into"</p>

<p>Stats, I'd really appreciate it if you would venture over to the prep school section more often. Every time you do, you make me laugh and I thank you SO MUCH for that.</p>

<p>@Periwinkle: love the Sandra Tsing Loh piece! Also loved the first reply to Loh (Petercoates) who highlights the conformity that is so rampant.</p>

<p>Its easy to be gracious and self deprecating when you have gone to Andover/Exeter Yale/Harvard. If the kid wants a sticker, great - it shows school spirit, but if the parents want it to show off, a little icky.</p>

<p>i disagree with ExieMitAlum about the Midwest. I used to live in Columbus, Ohio and the all of the schools around there send one or two students to the Ivy League each year. My family knew many kids who went to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Duke, MIT, UPenn... the list of great colleges go on. I don't know where you live in the Midwest, but you cannot generalize an entire region of a country.</p>