Monday, September 1, 2008

Snooty on the schools

In Maureen Dowd's column mocking John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate, the New York Times columnist wrote this:

"Obama may have been president of The Harvard Law Review, but Palin graduated from the
University of Idaho with a minor in poli-sci..."

You will note if you read the whole thing that Dowd is being sarcastic. Meanwhile, have a look at what Susan Reimer of the Baltimore Sun had to say:

"Barack Obama was the editor of the Harvard Law Review, for heaven's sake. And the best McCain can do is a woman who minored in poly-sci at the University of Idaho?"

Well, at least Dowd, unlike Reimer, knows what exactly it is Obama did at Harvard Law Review that was noteworthy--that he was it's first African-American president. Reimer incorrectly declares that Obama was "the" editor of the publication. In fact, it has lots of editors; just count all the ones for the latest volume.

You may wish to take note of the difference between being "the" president of the Harvard Law Review and "an" editor of it, because I'll bet Reimer's misstatement isn't the only time you're going to hear or see this error. As we see from this article posted on the Harvard Law Review website, this significant difference means that the correct answer to the inquiry "Who was the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review?" is not "Barack Obama" but "Charles Houston, back in 1922."

Anyway, that's just something I stumbled into when I first noticed the similarity between Dowd's statement and Reimer's, which led me to such a minute dissection of how they are different. But it's the similarity between the statements that I really want to address.

I graduated from Southern Illinois University; the main campus in Carbondale. Since I live in America, somebody isn't better than me simply because he has an Ivy League pedigree. It's fine to tout Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Northwestern, etc. as elite schools, but when you do so it's best not to mention other universities in the same sentence with an air of condescension.

Well, it certainly seems to me that this is what Dowd and Reimer have done. Obama, now, he's Harvard! Palin? She's just from the University of Idaho! How dreadful; she probably doesn't even know which fork to use for the escargot at a formal dinner!

I know, I know--you're going to say I'm being too sensitive about this. After all, it's not just that they are contrasting Harvard with the U. of Idaho; they are also highlighting the difference between being on a law review and being a poly-science minor.

But why bring up Palin's minor instead of her major? What strange thing could the Governor have been majoring in there in picturesque Moscow, Idaho?

Take a look at Governor Palin's biography:

"She received a bachelor of science degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho in 1987."

Perhaps the reason neither columnist mentioned Palin's major is that to do so would cast aspersion on what Dowd and Reimer do for a living themselves.

Hmm.... maybe Palin isn't qualified to be vice-president. After all, who wants someone to be a heartbeat away from the presidency when in college she actually wanted to go into journalism like Maureen Dowd and Susan Reimer did?

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