Friday, April 5, 2013

Seeking The MRS Degree

Susan Patton recently wrote a now infamous letter to the Daily Princetonian urging young, female Princetonians to make sure they find a husband before they graduate. It brings to mind an essay I wrote some years back but never published. OK--it's off topic for this blog, but I'll have something up about Trotskyism before the weekend is out. Meanwhile, this might just entertain...

There’s a college near where I live whose name you would all recognize. I withhold it to protect my privacy. It used to be a women’s school, but some decades ago it generously agreed to admit men. Perhaps 25% of students are male. This is a very elite, expensive, private school. I recently spoke with a faculty member there, a charming woman named Carole who teaches classical Greek and Latin. These topics, as you all know, are in high demand on today’s marketplace.

Why? Why would a young woman, or her parents, spend $50K/year to study, among other things, Greek or Latin? Not that there’s anything wrong with learning that; I briefly thought about studying Latin myself once. But as EduBubble never tires of pointing out, the price is just too damn high. So either the young woman is stupid, or her parents are even dumber, or there are a lot of really, really clueless employers out there who put just ordinary stupidity to shame.

Or not. I have mockingly referred to this college as “a finishing school for young ladies.” It was a sexist joke that I’d tell to my friends, and not intended seriously. But as I talked to Carole it dawned on me that it’s true. This name-brand college - post-modern, ultra-feminist, career-woman pretensions notwithstanding - is, indeed, a finishing school for young ladies. And as such it is likely worth every penny in tuition it charges.

Suppose you are a not-exceptionally-beautiful young woman from an upper-middle-class family who prefers not to get her hands dirty. Bravado talk notwithstanding, she needs to show that she will be an excellent wife and mother for a man of some substance - a doctor, say. Such gentleman - our lady can only hope - will not be attracted to the bimbo, and if she can establish her credential as a piano-playing, Latin-spouting, tasteful and classy young woman, then she has a chance. Latin may have no purchase in the marketplace, but when it comes to educating a doctor’s son or daughter, it is a very valuable skill indeed. In the marriage market Latin rules over C++ any day.

And so there it is. As a finishing school for young ladies it’s a very good one. This is nothing to be ashamed of, and they should be ashamed of being ashamed of it. There is nothing wrong with the business model, and this college will never go bankrupt.

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