When Susan Patton originally published this essay in the Daily Princetonian, everyone assumed she was sending an anti-feminist message. They thought she was telling Ivy League girls to nail that MRS degree first thing, or else face spinsterhood.
Feminists everywhere howled in protest.
I experienced the screeching as background noise. I'm a married woman decades past college and decades past dating, trying to scrounge money for a new axle boot and some medical bills.
"Not my reality," I thought.
This morning, while waiting for a repairman to show up and (hopefully) fix our washing machine, I found Ms. Patton's essay and read it.
I was wrong. This essay is part of my reality- and everyone else's. Ms. Patton might have thought she was offering dating advice to the young ladies of Princeton, but in the process she accidentally hiked up the skirts of the Oligarchy and gave the rest of us quite an eyeful.
I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians.
She actually says this with a straight face. Apparently mankind has evolved beyond mere homo sapiens to a new and superior genus: Homo Princetonius.
The superiority of this new genus is an awful burden to its females:Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.
Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them. And, you could choose to marry a man who has other things to recommend him besides a soaring intellect. But ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you.
I can almost hear David Attenborough's voice, can't you? Ah, the perils of life in the jungles beyond the Princeton Preserve! So dangerous for the breeding female.
Susan Patton assumes that there are no intellectually "worthy" people outside the Ivy League. Women who don't choose mates there are, in her eyes, diluting the species.
But don't take my word for it. Read Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist and Harvard graduate:
Her betrayal consists of being gauche enough to acknowledge publicly a truth that everyone who’s come up through Ivy League culture knows intuitively — that elite universities are about connecting more than learning, that the social world matters far more than the classroom to undergraduates, and that rather than an escalator elevating the best and brightest from every walk of life, the meritocracy as we know it mostly works to perpetuate the existing upper class.
Thus the importance, in the modern meritocratic culture, of the unacknowledged mechanisms that preserve privilege, reward the inside game, and ensure that the advantages enjoyed in one generation can be passed safely onward to the next.
This article hints at the mechanisms used to keep Ivy League campuses populated with the "right" people:
Over the last thirty years, America’s test-prep companies have grown from almost nothing into a $5 billion annual industry, allowing the affluent to provide an admissions edge to their less able children.
Others cut corners in a more direct fashion, as revealed in the huge SAT cheating rings recently uncovered in affluent New York suburbs, in which students were paid thousands of dollars to take SAT exams for their wealthier but dimmer classmates.7
Oligarchies serve their countries poorly because they function by blocking true ability in favor of promoting the "right" people. The result, after a brief while, is an entrenced, all-powerful elite equipped with mediocre abilities at best.
As one NYT commenter put it:
What grinds my gears is when they assume that their life of privilege qualifies them for public office. They often think that they've worked hard to get where they are, and I'm sure many did. But many others are blissfully unaware that doors don't swing open automatically for just anyone. These are the people who don't understand the difference between being broke and being poor. Ann Romney's remark that raising five boys qualified as a difficult job was a case in point. Try doing it while working part time at Wal-Mart.
In the end, Oligarchies can't solve problems because they are too busing serving themselves.