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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Regionalist assumptions. 
20th-Jun-2009 12:06 pm
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!
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...
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