Tuesday, April 05, 2005

America's Own Witless Aristocracy?

Okay- Ignoring the part where the subject of the article blames other people for the fact she was behaving unethically and wasn't following her dreams- All the time I was turning tricks, I really just wanted to make custom-crocheted pet clothes- here's where we see among the new American aristocracy of rich and often-photographed the same ignorant, decadent types that made the French folk irritated enough to ask Madame Guillotine to restore order to the schoolroom.

To be clear, I have no qualms when those who've made their own money or inherited it wish to support the diluted and boring offspring from their once productive lines. But I don't wish to see these winners of genetic roulette held up to me as admirable because of the accident of their births. I prefer meritocracy, thanks.

Spare me the documentaries and reality shows on the lives of the feckless and stupid non-contributors who were merely born into financial surplus and spend their lives giggling at all the things they don't know. Spare me the comments from well-to-do youth about the ennui of privilege. The kids mentioned in the Newsweek article below are indulged, completely dependent, and practically useless. Fine. Let freedom reign. But you can't convince me that I should look at pedigree items like prep school or Ivy League education as a guarantee of quality when we know about these nimrods in the ranks.

There are apparently scads of people with stockpiles of cash who don't care enough about education to require their children acquire any through effort and dedication (what a horrific prospect those qualities would be). But these adult consumers, who are ironically themselves probably high-performers, do care enough about the status symbol of education to purchase it for their children.

Whether in academia or outside, education is earned, not bought. That truth becomes evident once somone's knowledge and critical thinking are fire-tested. I once had a wonderful boss in the IT industry who gave his prospective programmers technical interviews, read "written tests". Some interviewees refused to take them while others stormed out in offense. Some panicked and melted down, betraying the elaborations of their resumes.

The test was designed to be tortuous. No one was expected to get it all correct or even necessarily finish. But as my boss observed the process of test-taking combined with the results, he was able to evaluate the professional skills and personality of the interviewee. One prospect called back a day later to say that while she was washing dishes, she'd had an inspiration about a better approach to the problem than the one she'd provided. She got the job both for her tenacity of mind as well as her elegant solution. Even when understaffed, my old boss turned down a lot of candidates, but we all enjoyed the pleasure (most often a luxury today) of working in an uncompromising firm with talented, motivated colleagues.

As is common in IT, many of my coworkers had "non-traditional" backgrounds on paper, which colors my belief in the kind of genius that may not reveal itself within the usual arenas. However, I also have tremendous respect and admiration for advanced degrees and what it takes to earn them, especially from competitive, rigorous programs. Sadly though, even Masters and Ph.D.s have shocked me with their ignorance and slack reasoning. Perhaps their parents bought their credentials like the ones guaranteed for these fat-headed oafs below.

'Tutoring' Rich Kids Cost Me My Dreams- Newsweek online, April 11th issue
(It didn't actually cost her dreams, just delayed them, so don't feel too sad for Nicole Kristal, the amoral author- Henway)

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