Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Any Legal Talent Outside of Harvard?

Michael Cook, Editor of Mercator.Net, has this to say about Kagan's nomination:

President Obama has just nominated Elena Kagan, his Administration’s Solicitor-General, to the Supreme Court. If she is successful, every single member of the Supreme Court will have attended law school at either Harvard or Yale. The incumbent president studied at Harvard; George W. Bush studied at Yale and Harvard; Bill Clinton studied at Yale; and George H.W. Bush studied at Yale.

Is there no talent outside Cambridge and New Haven? Is it healthy for the American political elite to be nurtured at two exclusive universities? Do we live in a democracy or an oligarchy?

Actually I went to Harvard, so I can claim some expertise here. How that happened, I don’t know. Amongst my forebears was one Thomas Dudley, who had signed Harvard’s charter back in 1650, and I was eligible for a Dudley scholarship. I felt rather like Peter Sellers’ "Birdie Num-Num" character in The Party – utterly out of place. I recall an orientation week gathering with the guys across the hall. After a couple of beers, they started, without any discernable reluctance, to compare their smarts. The first fellow was the top student in New York State; the second had a perfect SAT score; the third was embarrassed to reveal that he was a couple of points shy of a perfect… By that time I had slunk out.

However, subsequent events that year persuaded me that these were not the sort of guys who ought to be running countries, with the possible exception of very small tax havens like the Cayman Islands. IQ isn’t everything. Isn’t it time that the diversity mantra was intoned in the American judicial and executive branches?

By coincidence, three of our articles so far this week deal with higher education: Christopher O. Tollefsen asks if universities are really a bulwark against repression; Thomas C. Reeves asks whether everyone should aspire to go to college; and Jack Martin points out that a university education should hone one’s critical faculties. Finally, Helena Adeloju tackles lower education – the downward slide of reality TV -- and Michael Coren analyses the British election.

Readers of Ethics Forum will enjoy reading the good stuff published at Mercator.Net and I encourage you to mark the site as a favorite.

Alice C. Linsley

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