Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ben Stein's wrong on "not getting into college of your choice"

On 16 May 2010, Ben Stein presented a commentary on "CBS Sunday Morning" about how not getting into the college of one's choice won't really affect your later life. Ben Stein is a great commentator, but he's wrong on this one. His examples were Richard Nixon, Norman Lear, Jimmy Kimmel, and Bill Safire, all of whom did not go to an Ivy League school, but succeeded in life.

On the flip side, recall Dean Velvel:

Velvel also assailed the fact that, if Kagan is confirmed, all the Justices will be from Harvard (six) or Yale (three).

“The Boston-New York-Washington, Harvard-Yale-Princeton legal Mafia may not quite run the country or at least its Executive Branch,” he said, “but they are not far from it. Is there nobody who did not go to law school at Harvard or Yale who is qualified to sit on the Supreme Court?”

This of course under a Democratic president, who graduated from Columbia (after leaving Occidental) and Harvard Law.

If you were wondering, Ben Stein himself graduated from Columbia and Yale Law.

IPBiz had disagreed with Ben in the earlier matter of Ben's support of Eliot Spitzer.
See Ben Stein is wrong about the Eliot Spitzer saga . If you were wondering, Eliot Spitzer went to Princeton undergrad [as did Michelle Obama and Justice Sotomayor and nominee Kagan] and went to Harvard Law [as did President Obama and most justices on the Supreme Court and nominee Kagan]. And there is a patent law connection: After law school, Spitzer clerked for U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet, the judge who issued the ruling in the Myriad BRCA patent case.

In passing, Ben included both Stanford and Chicago as prestige schools. Thanks Ben.
But maybe "do as I do, not as I say," should be the guidance here. The good old boys network may not be just for boys, but it's still around.

Earlier post on Velvel/Kagan:

Earlier post on Myriad: [ U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet wrote in his opinion in the Myriad case: "Because the claimed isolated DNA is not markedly different from native DNA as it exists in nature, it constitutes unpatentable subject matter." ]

****Of Kagan, in spite of the academic credentials as to school, there is some issue about the number of articles; from the Daily Beast -->

Yesterday, I read everything Elena Kagan has ever published. It didn't take long: In the nearly 20 years since Kagan became a law professor, she's published very little academic scholarship—three law review articles, along with a couple of shorter essays and two brief book reviews. Somehow, Kagan got tenure at Chicago in 1995 on the basis of a single article in The Supreme Court Review—a scholarly journal edited by Chicago's own faculty—and a short essay in the school's law review. She then worked in the Clinton administration for several years before joining Harvard as a visiting professor of law in 1999. While there she published two articles, but since receiving tenure from Harvard in 2001 (and becoming dean of the law school in 2003) she has published nothing.

Of course cynics have noted that today Supreme Court nominees are often better off not having an extensive "paper trail" regarding their views on controversial legal issues. Who would have guessed it would be possible to retain this virtue while obtaining tenure at two of the nation's top law schools?)

At least in theory Kagan could compensate somewhat for the slenderness of her academic resume through the quality of her work. But if Kagan is a brilliant legal scholar, the evidence must be lurking somewhere other than in her publications. Kagan's scholarly writings are lifeless, dull, and eminently forgettable. They are, on the whole, cautious academic exercises in the sort of banal on-the-other-handing whose prime virtue is that it's unlikely to offend anyone in a position of power
Consider that Obama and Kagan joined the Chicago law faculty in the very same year, after both were Harvard Law students and members of the Harvard Law Review. (The difference between a "crony" and a "colleague" is often something of a sociological mystery.) Indeed, the most impressive thing about Kagan is that she seems to have a remarkable ability to ingratiate herself with influential people across the ideological spectrum.

Returning to Ben Stein's assertion, if (hypothetically), the present Supreme Court nominee were from UTexas law school, and had roughly five articles in 20 years, and no judicial experience, what result?


from Everyone Knows Your Search Fell Short :

The single most important consideration is affiliation. Hiring committees are not universally made up of cruel and heartless folk—usually the contrary. But when assessing a candidate, prestige matters, and it is diminished when you have no current affiliation with an institution. Members of the committee will point out, not necessarily maliciously, "Oh, she seems to be unemployed." It gets worse. Prestigious university presses will often turn down manuscripts from unaffiliated scholars. It is important for you to retain or find some sort of connection with academe.

**Also on Ben Stein:

Confessions for the Holidays


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