?

Log in

No account? Create an account
~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Regionalist assumptions. 
20th-Jun-2009 12:06 pm
Golden
One of the most perceptive posts I've seen in a long time about what it means to be from the Northeastern United States (the authors says "East Coast," but he actually means Northeast), from the point of view of someone who is not from there.

It's a long post, and I heartily recommend reading it in full, but it can be distilled into two main points:

1) To people who grew up in or around New York City, New York is just a city.

2) People in the Northeast have incorporated a hierarchy of higher education institutions into their beliefs about personal worth.

Both, inasmuch as they are generalizations, are probably true. What's interesting, though, is how the author juxtaposes two "Northeasterner" assumptions, one of them wholly pragmatic, and the other decidedly not.

Yes, New York is "just" a city. For someone like me, who comes not from the city proper but from the greater metropolitan area (and who did not regularly visit FAO Schwartz as a child), Manhattan isn't so much a plausible place to live as it is a plausible place to go to work. Or take in a show/museum exhibit. Perhaps that is why I took so quickly to the loooooong commute back and forth from NYU, why, given a dearth of options, it seemed the most plausible--for most of my childhood my father worked in the World Trade Center. (Yes, the iconic Twin Towers pre-9/11.)

As for the whole Ivy League arrogance, well, yeah, it bothers me. There is no good evidence to prove that attending, say, Harvard as an undergrad over another institution results in a better life outcome, all other things being equal. I'm sure there is something to be said for the Old Boy Network you can plug yourself into as a consequence of getting your bachelor's there, but most eighteen year olds are not prepared to exploit it. I know I wouldn't have, at that age. Later on, if you're savvy, you may be able to turn other Northeasterners' school snobbery to your advantage, but even that seems a marginal fringe benefit.

I am occasionally troubled by the assumptions people make about me on the basis of where I come from. When dealing with people hailing from within the region, they tend to combine "New Jersey" with my last name and think: boorish, uncultured, possibly mafioso. Lately, though, because I attended NYU and clearly did not move cross-country in order to do it, people from other parts of the US have been associating me with "New York" and its associated glamour. I can't decide which is worse. I grew up in the woods, people; sidewalks are more civilization than I was accustomed to for the first eighteen years of my life!
Comments 
21st-Jun-2009 02:11 am (UTC)
I'm not sure that the author was characterizing the Northeast as status-obsessed, but rather status-*conscious*. The fact that we're even having this casual conversation at all about universities not in New Jersey (Tulane - New Orleans!, Johns Hopkins, etc.) in the context of their supposed quality would strike a lot of people from other parts of the country as truly bizarre. In my admittedly limited experience, most people from the Northeast that I know can give you the long list of prestigious institutions in order of descending prestige. The lists tend to agree, even if the people doing the listing never themselves aspired to attend any of these institutions, even if they don't "believe" in what the prestige is supposed to mean.

I was just in the Borders (Bridgewater = Central Jersey) last night and trying not to listen to some pedantic bore in the cafe telling everyone how his son got an NSF grant and how a recommendation from him (guess he's a science prof?) can get students full funding in PhD programs at Ivy League schools because he's a really Big Deal in his field. After that litany, the post struck a chord.

Could be a North/South Jersey culture clash though, too, to some degree.

(Fascinating icon, BTW. XD )
21st-Jun-2009 02:40 am (UTC)
I think most people in this country could name the Ivy League no matter where they live, but maybe I just think that because I live here. Even people in the Midwest and California aspire to attend Harvard or Yale. Other regions have their own prestigious institutions (Stanford, Tulane, Northwestern, etc...) but I think the Ivy League inhabits a certain place in American academia that transcends where you live. Now I couldn't tell you whether that place is deserved since I didn't attend an Ivy League school. As for the lists being similar, I would imagine it's akin to people being able to name the Seven Sisters schools. It's just something that someone put into a list that most people are aware of.

The icon is from the show Dollhouse, it's a conversation between the nerdy guy who programs the actives and the woman who runs the Dollhouse when they were all drugged.
21st-Jun-2009 03:15 am (UTC)
I think most people in this country could name the Ivy League no matter where they live, but maybe I just think that because I live here.

That's what the original author of the post I linked to was arguing--that people not from the East Coast/Northeast *can't* name the Ivy League past Harvard or Yale and are not particularly conscious of it in the same was as we might be. In my experience, what the poster was saying seems to be true for people not from the Northeast, but I'm only going by the people I know...and since I'm not a big fan of prestigious universities for their own sake, maybe it's selection bias on my part.

I would imagine it's akin to people being able to name the Seven Sisters schools.

Whoa. Can you name the Seven Sisters schools off the top of your head?? I don't think even most Northeasterners can do that!! (The women's college alumna is impressed. ^_~ )
21st-Jun-2009 03:19 am (UTC)
No, unfortunately I can't name the Seven Sisters. I also can't really name all the Ivy League schools either though. I think most people who can name one can name the other. I was never obsessed with the prestige of the school either, probably because I knew I had neither the money nor the grades for it. I went to a relatively expensive school but not one that was all that prestigious. I think most people who could conceivably get into an Ivy, regardless of their geographic location, could at least add Princeton and Cornell to that list.
21st-Jun-2009 03:26 am (UTC)
Well, you knew what the Seven Sisters schools are. XD Having even heard the appellation and knowing what it means is very regionally specific, in my humble experience (Simpsons and Scooby-Doo episodes aside).

I'd have to disagree with the last part of what you said, though. I think there are a lot of students out there who *could* get into an Ivy if they applied (and would do well if they enrolled)--but they don't apply because it never occurs to them or because they don't believe they'll be accepted or because they don't think they can afford it. The level of this tragedy is dependent upon how important you think going to the most prestigious university possible is, but there is no question in my mind that a lot of kids don't do college for the wrong reasons--race, class, etc.
21st-Jun-2009 03:35 am (UTC)
I think the first time I heard of them was on the Simpsons so take from that what you will.

I agree with you to a certain extent, though I think there are plenty of kids in NJ and elsewhere in the Northeast that forego an Ivy League education because they think they can't afford it or wouldn't get in. I'm of the opinion that an Ivy League education is meaningless unless you want to get into certain jobs in certain places. If you want to be a Democratic candidate for President, maybe, if you want to be a middle manager at a regional corporate HQ, probably not. In fact, Ivy League education could turn into a downside if the hiring manager feels you are "too qualified", or feels intimidated by that piece of paper. Those schools are largely places where the rich and connected from across the world can send their kids to be near other kids who are similarly rich and well connected and avoid the riffraff for the most part.
22nd-Jun-2009 01:32 am (UTC)
*laughs* I always tended to view the Ivy League schools as where middle/upper middle class parents sent their kids to *become* rich and well-connected. I'm not yet sure how well that actually works, but a lot of people (parents) are convinced that it does (otherwise, you wouldn't have the sort of "getting into college" market that you do).

And of course, the average salary difference between a high school graduate/no college, and somebody with a BA (from any college) is loathsomely large...
This page was loaded Apr 22nd 2018, 1:18 am GMT.