People get into Harvard for all sorts of reasons. Some because they're legacies and their parents donated money. Some because they were good athletes. Some because of affirmative action. And a few, like me, get in because they were faculty children.
Some of these people would have gotten in anyway. But most wouldn't have. So what exactly does it mean that they have Harvard degrees?
When I was in college, graduating wasn't hard. The dumbest guys I knew at Harvard -- and you'd be surprised how dumb they were -- graduated at pretty much the same rate smarter people did. They took easier courses, or they cribbed other peoples' papers, or they just graduated with worse grades.
So what exactly does it mean that they have Harvard degrees?
But we've all known enough of these people to know that, really, they're not that smart. They're almost never witty, they can't think for themselves, and they're generally only founts of received wisdom.
So what does it mean that they have Harvard degrees?
The smartest people I've known were not grade grubbers. They just explored various subjects because they found them.... interesting. Those subjects, whether lowbrow, middlebrow, or highbrow, simply held appeal for them. So these people were mostly autodidacts, and formed their own opinions about those subjects.
And therefore, these are the same people who are most easily conned into believing in various forms of political correctness. (These days, "educated" is just a synonym for "brainwashed.")
These are the same people who recite cliches as if they're imparting the wisdom of the ages. (The more you use cliches, the more apparent it is that you cannot think for yourself.)
These are the same people who would say, with an airily dismissive wave of the hand, "Oh, I would never listen to anything that Neanderthal would say." (Shouldn't an argument be judged on its own merits?)
And these are the same people who recite their credentials as if this is proof that what they say must be correct. They may not be quick, they may make a lot of mistakes, and others may find their company deadly. But, they have the diploma, so they must be smarter than those who don't have it.
I've always found that the best measure of a person's sanity and intelligence -- but especially sanity -- is their sense of humor. To be funny, one must have a sense of the absurd. And to have that, one must have a strong instinctive grasp on reality. (When was the last time you heard someone boast of his academic credentials and then say something truly funny?)
The next time you hear someone ask for your academic pedigree, as prelude to reciting his own, you should hear three things: first, he's not really that smart; second, he's probably pretty closed-minded; and third, he's a snob.