Megan McArdle writes:
Let's be honest, coastal folks: when you meet someone with a thick
southern accent who likes NASCAR and attends a bible church, do you
think, "hey, maybe this is a cool person"? And when you encounter
someone who went to Eastern Iowa State, do you accord them the same
respect you give your friends from Williams? It's okay--there's no one
here but us chickens. You don't.
Maybe you don't know you're
doing it. But I have quite brilliant friends who grew up in rural
areas and went to state schools--not Michigan or UT, but ordinary state
schools--who say that, indeed, when they mention where they went to
school, there's often a droop in the eyelids, a certain forced quality
to the smile. Oh, Arizona State. Great weather out there. Don't I need a drink or something? This person couldn't possibly interest me.
from a handful of schools, most of them hailing from a handful of major
metropolitan areas, dominate academia, journalism, and the
entertainment industry. Our subtle (or not-so-subtle) distaste for
everything from their entertainment to their decorating choices to the
vast swathes of the country in which they choose to live permeate
almost everything they read, watch, or hear. Of course we don't hear
it--to us, that's simply the way the world is.
I have written before that I go out of my way not to mention my
double-Ivy pedigree within my business dealings because it tends to cause my
employees (who often have no degree at all) to clam up. I absolutely
depend on their feedback and ideas, and those dry up if my employees
somehow think that I'm smarter than they are and they start to be afraid to "look stupid."
But McArdle's post causes me to think of another reason not to be snobbish about my eastern degrees. I meet a lot of rich and succesful people out here in the Phoenix area, and I can't remember the last one that had an Ivy League degree. I am thinking through a few of them right now -- ASU, ASU, Arizona, Kansas State, Tulane, no college, San Diego State.... Getting uppity about my Harvard MBA around here only leaves me vulnerable to the charge of "Person X went to Montana State and is worth $10 million now -- what the hell have you been doing with that Harvard MBA?" Here in flyover country, college degrees and family pedigree are not really strong predictors of business success.