Elite Schools Taking a Kavanagh Beating While Accelerating Inequality

Ideas and Issues
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

New Orleans    A subtext of the horror that Judge Brett Kavanagh wears like a cloak has been the elite school tattoos he has branded on every smirk and twist of his mouth and roar of his entitlement and privilege.  Georgetown Prep and Yale both have some explaining to do, but of course they aren’t alone, just a couple of good ol’ boy schools caught with their pants down, sucking on beer bongs, while they molest coeds and townie girls.

Georgetown Prep, an all-boys enclave with its own 9-hole golf course has cried like a stuck pig as the Jesuits bemoan the fact that they are doing all they can about this culture.  These are the Jesuits mind you, the Catholic order known for social services and a commitment to social justice.  We just had eleven of their finest from Jesuit High School in New Orleans along with two adults work most of the day doing fantastic work at the ACORN Farm, so I’m careful with the broad brush here, but, geez, what are they doing in Washington, DC?

Reading sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s new book Palaces for the People:  How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, in one point he compares the educational institutions that build social infrastructure rather than just architectural monuments to themselves.   His children’s school in New York that integrates parental involvement comes off way better than the year when his children were in San Jose in a beautiful campus near Stanford that discouraged parents involvement and interaction with each other.   Clearly, the Jesuits weren’t engaging parents in the 1980s when Brett Kavanagh was wilding, but what are they doing now to drastically change this culture other than saying to all of us that it’s a hard problem?  Neil Gorsuch who is already on the Supreme Court also went to Georgetown Prep.  Maybe we need to look more closely there as well.

Yale, where Kavanagh graduated from both its college and law school, has been caught on both sides of the fence.  First, they celebrated another Eli on the court.  Now, faced with a student rebellion that is demanding justice for Dr. Ford, they are caught backtracking.

Past these headlines, isn’t it time to demand more from these elite institutions and their inbred entitlements?

Professor Thomas Kane of Harvard has found that just one out of six low-income applicants to elite schools was likely to be black or Hispanic, so a program that gave an admissions advantage to low-income students would therefore admit five white students for every one black or Hispanic student, thereby reducing racial diversity.  Not that these schools are breaking a hard sweat.  In the recent year, 29% of Harvard’s 2017 freshman class was related to other Harvard graduates, so class privileges continue to be passed down as legacies.  These schools create inequality with such practices.

Some people and institutions are doing work.  The Mellon Foundation has funded Tulane University to create a community engagement pilot in New Orleans where we are participating.  But, community engagement is not simply a couple of hours of required community service or cherry-picking partners to advance graduate careers.  What we are seeing by looking over Kavanagh’s shoulder at the institutions that formed him screams that we need a totally different educational and civic engagement model that leeches the elite out of these institutions and remakes them as places that can mold the men and women we really need for a more equitable and just future.