Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Pretentious? Moi?


As you might expect, the Ivy League Sports Board is mainly occupied with discussions of Ivy League athletic teams, most of which are not very good. A recent thread, however, strayed into the topic of pretentiousness, a pursuit in which the Ivies are unexcelled. One poster ranked Brown, Columbia, and Yale as the top three most pretentious schools in the league (mild vulgar language warning). I can’t vouch for how informed this poster is, and as a Columbia graduate, I don’t know whether to be gratified or offended that we’re only No. 2. Still, for whatever they’re worth, the reasons he gave for his ranking may be of interest to Phi Beta Cons readers:

My own politics are well left of center, but I am still far enough away from either end of the political spectrum to find the residents of those extremes annoying, though for different reasons.

My mention of the “liberal” ethos at Brown, Columbia and Yale has less to do with political philosophy and more to do with how people tend to make political arguments.

When my conservative friends argue with me, their positions tend to be framed against the backdrop of “I am more principled than you,” “I have more traditional values than you” or, more specifically, “I want less intervention by government and institutions.” Any visit to Fox News will generate an example of this.

When my liberal friends argue with me, their points tend to have an unspoken message of “I am smarter than you,” which I find to be more pretentious and annoying than arguments based upon principles, traditional values or an anti-establishment bias. A quick perusal of the op-ed page of the New York Times will give you a sense of what I mean. I happen to agree with most of what the Times says; I just don’t like the way they tell it to me.

It is this attitude that I find highly correlated with the “politically correct” atmosphere on the Brown campus which tends to ridicule viewpoints outside of the prevailing wind, which on College Hill only blows to the left.

As an aside, please don’t be offended but I must mention that GQ magazine stated that there are two affectations at Brown: (1) “The belief that grades and distribution requirements are a form of cultural hegemony” and (2) “use of the word cultural hegemony.” ;)

All this may explain why the Ivy League is such a liberal place: You grow up being the smartest kid in your school, and then you get to college and you’re only average, so you spend four years trying to prove that you’re smarter than everyone else.


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