Joseph, at some visceral level, my John Bender-like rage against the overprivileged and underexperienced is profoundly personal, and I recognize it as a Jets-vs.-Sharks kind of thing. In a town like D.C., overcrowded with Ivy Leaguers and people with multiple graduate degrees, sneering at snobs is de rigueur for a guy with a state-school B.A. It’s about morale.
“Ivy” and “evil” aren’t necessarily synonyms. The very best intern who ever passed through The Washington Times in my 10 years there was Laura Vanderkam of Princeton. Her first day, she got an assignment at 11 a.m. and filed 700 words by 2:30 p.m. Joe Curl — now a White House correspondent but then an assistant national editor — opened the story in the queue, read through it and said, “Damn. She can write.” The story required almost no editing at all. An astonishing thing to any editor who’s ever had to deal with journalism interns. (BTW, Laura is a homeschool alumna from Indiana.)
In the matter of SAT vs. GPA, Brooks is correct. Competition for top grades in high school has become insane, especially in posh suburban districts and at the tonier private schools, where there are lots of kids angling for elite university admissions. I mean, OK, if you’re aiming for med school or planning a career as a research scientist, acquiring the grind mentality at an early age might be a necessary evil. But beyond that, a kid ought to have some kind of life outside of books and school. The world would be a better place if more of these “Young Leaders Of Tomorrow” types were spending their evenings and weekends working the grill at Burger King or stocking the shelves at Food Lion.
Intense academic pressure on bright kids is unnecessary and misguided. Take a smart kid who’s going to score a 700+ verbal SAT no matter what. As long as he’s going to school, doing the work, and staying out of trouble, he’ll get into some good college somewhere and do just fine in life. And even if he starts running with a bad crowd, turns into a semi-hooligan and barely graduates high school (ahem), it’s not the end of the world. If it weren’t for underachievers, slackers and discipline cases, state universities would enroll only industrious bright-normals.
I’m not saying that smart kids should be allowed to skate through high school, but being a teenager is tough enough without a Harvard-Or-Die burden.
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