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Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Giving Away Honors and Titles



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I was reading Gregg Easterbrook’s outstanding “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” on espn.com, and (in the midst of a fascinating extended discussion of all the flaws in the NBA and “Spiderman 3”) I came across this little nugget:

“Here’s your tuition bill, plus a surcharge for being editor of the Harvard Crimson”: In my professional life, I’ve run into quite a number of people who say that in college they were editor of the Crimson, Harvard’s famed newspaper. I often have wondered how it was possible that I personally could know such a high percentage of former Crimson editors. Well, it turns out that everyone who does anything for the Crimson receives the title “editor.” Last semester, the paper listed 800 editors. This means there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people who truthfully can say, “I was editor of the Harvard Crimson.”

Hundreds of editors? Is he kidding? If I hadn’t attended Harvard’s law school, I would think that couldn’t be right. Yet I myself used to hold the title of “editor” of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, a proudly conservative publication. When I was in school (1991-1994), everyone who helped edit articles was called an “editor,” and we were explicitly told that the journal’s leadership gave us that title to “make our resumes look better.”

The modern Ivy League approach (and the approach followed by most elite colleges) seems to be the following: They make it hard to get in (after all, prestige must be maintained somehow), but then – once you’re there – treat you much the same way that Eddie Murphy famously imagined what it’s like to “be white” in this legendary SNL skit. They just throw goodies at you. Want to be editor of the most prestigious student newspaper in the America? Here ya go! Honors from the most famous college in the world? Yours! Walk-in health care with minimal waiting at virtually any hour? You got it! A vast bureaucracy that makes sure the university caters to even your emotional needs. No problem! The best education money can buy? Well . . .



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