The writer and critic William Deresiewicz has written a smart and provocative polemic against having your child receive that time-honored marker of the American dream, an Ivy League education.
Cleverly, he took the ironic step of publishing it in The New Republic, a magazine whose editorial masthead is more dominated by Ivy League graduates than perhaps any other in the Washington, D.C., prestige-media pipeline.
Ivy League schools waste of time announces magazine that is integral arm of Ivy alum media job pipeline— alex pareene (@pareene) July 22, 2014
“Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” warns the headline atop the piece, which is also this issue’s cover story. It is accompanied by a striking graphic of a Harvard flag lit aflame. There is also a curious subhead: “The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies.”
“The TNR I worked at would barely even read résumés without an Ivy League degree,” The Daily Beast’s Scott Bixby tweeted in reply.
Still, Deresiewicz’s argument is incisive and worth considering in full. The prestigious college industrial complex, he recounts, is full of “toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression.” Frequently, young Ivy Leaguers write to ask him how to “avoid becoming an out-of-touch, entitled little shit,” he writes. “I don’t have a satisfying answer, short of telling them to transfer to a public university.”
But if such a student seeks a job at The New Republic, that move won’t be a wise one. We’ve sized up TNR’s lengthy editorial masthead (read: not the business or sales teams) and noticed that 46 out of 91 staffers hold undergraduate or graduate degrees (or both) from an Ivy League institution. Readers who attended a college with a robust core curriculum that forces you to take a math class—Columbia University, for instance—will note that that amounts to more than half of the masthead. Here’s the breakdown.
No surprise: the list is Harvard-heavy. TNR—a publication owned by Harvard graduate Chris Hughes and previously owned by Harvard Ph.D. and ex-professor Marty Peretz and co-founded by Harvard graduate Walter Lippmann and Harvard dropout Herbert Croly—today employs 18 writers, editors and designers who’ve done time in Cambridge. That prestigious count consists of owner and editor-in-chief Hughes, story editor Chloe Schama, senior editor Jonathan Cohn, senior editor Adam Kirsch, legal affairs editor Jeffrey Rosen, contributing editor David A. Bell, contributing editor Christopher Benfey, contributing editor Justin Driver, contributing editor Ezekiel J. Emanuel, contributing editor Ruth Franklin, contributing editor Robert Kagan, contributing editor Steven Pinker, contributing editor Cass R. Sunstein, contributing editor Helen Vendler, contributing editor Michael Walzer, contributing editor Ronald Steel, contributing editor Graeme Wood and intern Amy Weiss-Myer.
Another 14 TNR staffers hail from stints at Columbia University: editor Franklin Foer, literary editor Leon Wieseltier, executive editor Rachel Morris, story editor Ryan Kearney, senior editor Paul Berman, staff writer Christopher Beam, art critic Jed Perl, architecture critic Sarah Williams Goldhagen, contributing editor William Deresiewicz (hey!), contributing editor Ruth Franklin (she, among others, appears on two lists—she moved on to grad school at Harvard), contributing editor Nathan Glazer, contributing editor David Greenberg, contributing editor Sean Wilentz and photo and multimedia editor Maïa Booker.
Yale comes in third place. The New Haven campus was once home to senior editor Judith Shulevitz, senior editor Alec MacGillis, legal affairs editor Jeffrey Rosen, contributing editor Anne Applebaum, contributing editor David Greenberg, contributing editor Jack Goldsmith, contributing editor Robert Kagan, contributing editor Sean Wilentz and reporter-researcher Yishai Schwartz. Then there’s the small but significant Princeton contingency, which comprises senior editor Julia Ioffe, contributing editor David A. Bell, contributing editor David Rieff and assistant editor Esther Breger.
There are just three who hold degrees from Brown (architecture critic Sarah Williams Goldhagen, contributing editor Justin Driver and contributing editor Timothy Snyder—come on, guys, couldn’t you find a job at The Nation?) and another four with UPenn on their résumés (story editor Ben Crair, contributing editor Nathan Glazer, books and arts intern Shaj Mathew and digital media editor Hillary Kelly, who had the grave responsibility of tweeting out the cover story).
Finally, we come to the loneliest of Ivies. Dartmouth marks just two within TNR’s ranks, and they are both recent hires: meet assistant to the literary editor Becca Rothfeld and intern Taylor Malmsheimer. Cornell, the largest and least selective Ivy institution, is solely represented by contributing editor William Galston.
I’ve asked my friend Matt Adelman, who holds a bachelor’s degree in math, what this all means. He drew me up a proof:
Theorem 0.1. Theorem 1 The New Republic is run by Zombies.
Proof of Theorem 0.1.
Fact 1: If you go to an Ivy League School, you turn into a zombie.
Fact 2: More than half of The New Republic’s editorial staff went to an Ivy League school
Therefore, The New Republic is run by zombies.
Corollary 0.1.1. The New Republic will eat your brain.
As a caveat, Adelman asked me to note that his proof has not been peer-reviewed. Adelman, I should add, does not hold a degree from an Ivy League institution. Like me, he holds a degree from Wesleyan University, which is not a member of the Ivy League but was briefly marketed, to great alarm, as “The Independent Ivy” in the late 1990s.
Wesleyan, Deresiewicz writes, is second tier “but not second-rate.” Wesleyan—rest assured, parents—will not turn your kid into a zombie.
The New Republic might.
Correction: An earlier version of this chart identified Oxford and William & Mary as private universities. In fact, they are both public schools.