The Ivy League Truth

My friend at work showed me an interesting article the other day as a way of poking fun of my Ivy League background (something I’ve grown accustomed to). It was then posted by two other friends of mine on Facebook, both of whom provided impressively detailed and intellectual commentary on the article.

Here is the link if you want to read: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118747/ivy-league-schools-are-overrated-send-your-kids-elsewhere

(As you can see, the title is pretty self-explanatory)

This post is NOT my take on this article – rather a thought that it provoked, one I’ve had since I was accepted into college.

Before I go on, there’s something you have to know about me. There are very few things that make me feel insecure. I find it somewhat easy to be self-deprecating (mostly for comedic purposes), but now after seeing that on paper, having that trait could easily be construed as an in security in and of itself. But, I will leave that to all of you to muse.

I can’t stand telling people where I went to school – to be incredibly candid. It’s one of my legitimate fears.

It started as a playful, post graduation “eh” when people asked me how I felt about it, but now I try to keep it a full blown secret until the very last moment when I’m forced to come clean (which, of course, makes me look like a bigger jerk than flaunting it from the get go).

Today, I say: yes, I went to Yale, and yes I feel indifferent about the whole situation.

“Dude, you must be so smart”

While at school, I met some of the most intelligent people I will likely ever meet, along with some of the most idiotic.

Buddy, we just met. Don’t you think it makes sense to observe a little before you make the lofty claim that I am wildly more intelligent than the people around me? Do you know what that does? It puts people under a microscope.

“…and this guy went to Yale?”

Always a great feeling hearing that phrase. I’ve never been one to sugarcoat my situation, though. Two things helped me get into an Ivy League school: I played a sport (baseball) and yes, you guessed it, I’m a minority.

What benefit does it do to “act” the part if every slip up in logic or knowledge brings on a waterfall of jokes and criticism? You learn to laugh at yourself. I’m horrific at doing quick math in my head. Every feeble attempt to split a dinner check is like getting a participation trophy.

“Hey, you tried.”

Needless to say I’ve mastered the, “I’ll cover it all and you guys can just pay me back” move. Rough on the wallet, but a great way to make true, life-long friends. On the upside, I’ve built up a ton of IOU’s…so I’ve got that going for me. My mom used to promise my brother and I IOU’s (yet to be paid), and no, your hard work getting us into good schools and helping us become the men we are doesn’t count.

My SAT and ACT scores would probably frustrate you.

I wish I could share with you the mental photographs of the faces people gave me when my college was announced in high school (they weren’t good faces). Part of me loved and thrived on the reactions, I had a chip on my shoulder. The other part of me thought, “wow, some of these people truly hate me because of one college decision.” They felt slighted.

Well, read the above article and find solace in the fact that not going to an Ivy League school is not the end of the world. Perhaps you’re even better off.

“If I went there, I would be tellin’ everybody!”

One of my friends from back home said this. Dreams of walking into a club in slow motion with a Yale polo on and having every girl interested in you are exactly that – dreams. Actually, pipe dreams. That might work for some, but certainly not all.

Who could forget that graduation party I went to where somehow going to Yale made me the whitest black guy in the room. That wasn’t even about intellect, but rather the social stigma attached to the Ivy League.

I would go to the YMCA to play basketball and my nickname was immediately Carlton. I didn’t care, I still competed, laughed, and had fun, it’s just who I was. And considering I haven’t changed much since playing basketball last winter, maybe it’s who I still am.

Now when I go to the Y, I like to roll out of the parking lot with my windows down and ratchet rap music playing. Stereotypical, absolutely. But it’s an interesting experience to have people in the gym read my Yale shirt and call me Carlton, then watch the judgmental looks of people watching me go with obnoxiously loud rap music. Maybe that’s just how my mind works.

Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the direct correlation between higher education and how it makes someone “white.” It’s like a refusal to change a stereotype by deciding that the only logical conclusion is to wholly buy into it.

The eerie truth

I disagree with a good amount of the above-mentioned article, but it also touches on the eerie truth.

I do not believe that the Ivy League is all it is cracked up to be.

In the working world, when everyone is forced to make a name for his or her self, no one cares where you went to school. They care about how hard you work and what type of person you are.

I work in the entertainment industry and have had my fair share of eyes raise when someone finds out where I went to school, but after a while it grows stale. Some Ivy Leaguers can hack it and others can’t. The reasons for dismissal are all-inclusive as well, some because they can’t deal with the demeaning nature of the job, and others, yes, are not smart enough and do not have the common sense to keep up with the pace of it all.

After my freshman year in college, I returned home to countless questions from my friends. One girl asked me what I wanted to major in. My immediate answer was “film studies”. I’ve never seen a face go from happy and smiling to concerned so quickly. “But, what are you gonna DO with that?”

Find a way

It’s not intellect alone that drives one to be successful (in whatever your personal definition of success is), it’s who you are as a person.

My dad has engrained in my mind that knowing how to treat people with respect and be liked is of paramount importance (I got that phrase from my current boss – love it). Anyone who is close to me has heard me say this before and I’ll say it again:

I would rather be considered an idiot who people like and respect for who I am, than be considered someone of divine intelligence who people hold to some highly exalted, unreachable standard.

This is not to say that I am not proud of my achievements. I am very proud of what I’ve done, but that pride comes from the person I feel like Yale made me. My college experience is far different than any other person I went to school with, not because I’m special, but because we have different goals and expectations for our lives.

The Ivy League was created by us and is condemned by us. It means nothing.

But it is really fun to think about.

Cam

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