Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hypocrisy Studies

Ken Oldfield, referred to below in connection with his book, Resilience, Queer Professors From the Working Class, is engaged in a long term project, "Hypocrisy Studies." An excerpt from his entry on Scalia, the man who equates silk purses with admission to elite schools, follows:

"Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Another of Reagan's contributions to "Trickle Down" economics. According to one source, "Scalia's ascent to the pinnacle of his profession was proclaimed by many as an example of the American dream" ("Antonin," 1999) coming true.

Hardly! Scalia is of very comfortable origins. Antonin's dad received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and was a professor of Romance languages at Brooklyn College. Justice Scalia's mother was an elementary school teacher. His parents sent Antonin to The Right Schools, including Xavier High School ($34,800), a tony Jesuit military academy in Manhattan. He received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University ($171,752). While there, and as a Sheldon Fellow of Harvard, he studied at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). Presumably, he went to Switzerland to learn more about poor people, the primary beneficiaries of trickle down economics.

After learning to appreciate how the bottom half lives, Antonin returned to the States. He received a law degree from Harvard ($146,544) in 1960 and that same year married an English major from Radcliffe College, Maureen McCarthy. Her father was a physician, which might help explain the Radcliffe connection.

In 1977, Scalia's deep and abiding commitment to fighting socialism carried Antonin to Washington, D.C., where he became a Resident Scholar with the American Enterprise Institute. From 1967-71, Scalia fell off the free market bandwagon and into the grips of socialism when he became a law professor at the publicly owned University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Over the years, he has also taught at several other law schools, institutions that were, probably just like the University of Virginia, brimming with students of poverty and working class origins, including Georgetown University, the University of Chicago and Stanford University."

Thanks Ken for allowing me to reprint this. But back on Scalia and and the silk purse quote (immediately below). First, there is something nice about Scalia slamming the elite schools. Second, just to keep the barnyard idea going. Relying on elite credentials is like buying a pig in a poke. In my time in teaching, I have seen way too many silk purses that were empty.

Friday, May 15, 2009

And This Little Piggy Went to the Supreme Court

By now most people in legal education or practicing law have seen the article in the ABA Journal about Justice Scalia explaining the facts of Supreme Court and academic life to an American University student.

"“By and large,” Scalia said during the April 24 law school appearance, “I’m going to be picking from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into. They admit the best and the brightest, and they may not teach very well, but you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. If they come in the best and the brightest, they’re probably going to leave the best and the brightest, OK?”"

Assuming the Judge reversed the sow's ear and the silk purse, I think he just labeled everyone who did not attend at an elite law school a pig or at least an appendage of a pig. On the other hand, I think he meant what he said. That interpretation would be that no matter how bad the education is at the elite schools they cannot ruin excellent students. I certainly agree with the premise but but either they are ruining many of the best and brightest or they are not getting the best and brightest in the first place.

I'd like the Justice to visit a few law school barn yards for a closer look. The halls are lined with the "best and brightest" who are often sow's ears -- narrowly educated, anti intellectual and with an overpowering sense of entitlement. Many cannot think their way of a paper sty. I often wonder what would be the most elitist and expensive education possible in the United States starting from primary school. I think I have found it and all the sows' ears Justice Scalia could eat at the same time.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Gay and Working Class

There is an intriguing new book on the market. The title is Resilience: Queer Professors from the Working Class and as its title suggests it is devoted to the stories of gay and working class people who have made into the exclusive world of academia. The editors and contributors are are Kenneth Oldfield and Richard Johnson.

It is an interesting combination and, as Ken Oldfield says, while the academic community is far more welcoming for gays than it once was, there is little indication that the same can be said for working class academics.

One of the themes of this blog has always been that class trumps all other factors. This is most obvious in the case of white professors but, as I have written before, it seems clear that African-Americans are in the same position. Academic positions appear to be open to African-Americans as long as they come from the "right" background or have been appropriately groomed. On the other hand, any obvious link to the actual real world life of African-Americans in the United States makes the elitists who control hiring nervous.

Almost certainly the same is true for gays. Law Schools clamor to hire gay professors in order to display their "liberal" leanings (even if the gay professors are conservative). My hunch is that they would draw the line at a gay applicant with even a whiff of a working class background or one who would actual admit to such a background. But, for me at least, this is uncharted territory. I have seen working class whites and African-Americans get snubbed but I am not sure I have even seen a gay applicant who had working class characteristics. Consequently, I cannot tell if the same discrimination occurs but my hunch is that it does. In fact, the fact that working class gay applicants to not emerge may itself be a sign of how severe the discrimination is.