A mind is a terrible thing to waste

Van Jones has said some crazy things and affirmed some sick propositions, but this reflection on the state of elite education is mostly on the money:

I had a professor who encouraged me to apply to Harvard and Yale [for law school], which was almost unheard of for students coming from the kind of public schools that I was coming from in the rural South. I was accepted to both places, and decided to go to Yale because Yale didn’t have any grades and was smaller than Harvard. I figured, once I enroll I’m guaranteed to graduate, so I can just go and be a radical hell raiser student, and they can’t do anything about it. Which is pretty much what happened.

The only error here is Jones’ assumption that Yale law school would want to do anything about a “radical hell raiser.”
Jones’ experiences at Yale caused Lisa Schiffren to wonder about President Obama’s experiences at Columbia and Harvard.

We know, of course, that Barack Obama is brilliant, because everyone says so — and he has a degree from Harvard Law School. But we know nothing about his actual education: what he studied, or how he did in his studies; what thinkers and writers (excepting Saul Alinksy) inspired him and shaped his world views. We see the credentials. What about the content?

As a law student, it appears that Jones aspired to a career as a community activist. Obama’s ambitions began there but extended considerably further. Thus, it’s likely that Obama approached school rather differently than Jones did. Certainly, he picked up many catch-phrases that are more pleasing to the ear than the ones Jones likes to hurl.
Whether he learned more “content” is less clear. As John has noted, Obama appears to know little about history and less about economics. But that’s been pretty normal state of affairs among students at elite institutions for many years now.


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