Old Stalingrad — I mean, Old Nassau

by Kieran Healy on November 30, 2006

Just to piggyback on Henry’s post about Orson Scott Card’s new novel, I was pleased to learn from the excerpt Scott Lemiuex posted that, like me, the hero spent his grad student years at Princeton.

Princeton University was just what Reuben expected it to be—hostile to everything he valued, smug and superior and utterly closed-minded. … Yes, a doctorate in history would be useful. But he was really getting a doctorate in self-doubt and skepticism, a Ph.D. in the rhetoric and beliefs of the insane Left. … In other words, he was being embedded with the enemy as surely as when he was on a deep Special Ops assignment inside a foreign country that did not (officially at least) know that he was there.

Fantastic! Princeton’s a great university, though in the past I’ve said myself that it can be a bit closed minded and smug. I had thought this might grow out of its role as the “Southernmost Ivy”, its culture of selective Eating Clubs, its astonishingly loyal, cranky and tradition-worshipping undergraduate alumni, its historically close connections with the CIA, stuff like that. But now I know better. All together now, “Tune every heart and every voice …”

{ 19 comments }

1

Matt 11.30.06 at 7:21 pm

Is the “southernmost Ivy” thing based on ideology, location of student recruitment, self-image, or something other than geography? If so, Princeton can have it. Otherwise there’s another place that might lay the claim.

2

Kieran Healy 11.30.06 at 7:22 pm

Historically it was the Northern university of choice for Southern Gentlemen. I know U Penn is farther south. Of course, we also know that U Penn grads have a pathological desire to say things like “The University of Pennsylvania _and other ivies_” just in case people think it’s a public school like the University of Arizona or something.

3

Idiot/Savant 11.30.06 at 7:34 pm

Isn’t self-doubt and skepticism exactly what you should be learning at university anyway – particularly in a history department? Or do people just think you go there to have your prejudices confirmed (and be awarded a silly hat for doing so)?

4

Matt 11.30.06 at 7:35 pm

Actually, the main things the Penn students like to say is, “I go to Penn, _Not Penn State_!” They really are pretty insecure about it, much to my amusement.

5

Andrew 11.30.06 at 7:37 pm

My brother-in-law just says “Wharton”, maybe I know why now.

6

agm 11.30.06 at 7:39 pm

its astonishingly loyal, cranky and tradition-worshipping undergraduate alumni

Being located close to A&M, I find this both quite possible and giving Princeton entirely too much credit. They are second-rate worshippers of the undergrad alma mater, compared to what it takes to piss off an entire state the size of Texas with chauvinism.

7

Rob 11.30.06 at 8:01 pm

Pretty sure Duke now fills the old Princeton role.

8

ben alpers 11.30.06 at 9:18 pm

I’ve always thought that Duke was the opposite: the Southern university that the children of wealthy Northeasterners are most likely to attend.

And despite the fact that Princeton dresses seniors in beer jackets and invites them to reunions (along with every other class every year), the level of ridiculous “tradition”-mongering by aTm’s students and “former students” cannot be matched. We’re talking about a school that has a scoreboard outside the football stadium for the team’s dead mascots!

9

kid bitzer 11.30.06 at 10:22 pm

“like me, the hero spent his grad student years at Princeton”

wait a second–

this could *also* mean that you, like the hero, were at Princeton as an undercover agent who is planning to wage war on The Left and smash the Radical Professoriate before it can betray America and hand over our country to the French.

I see it all now–you’re actually working hand in glove with Glenn Reynolds, Pat Buchanan, and Eric Rudolph. You’re just under deeper cover. All that stuff about your being a “sociologist”. Hah. From “Europe”. Yeah right.

Diabolical!!

10

mpowell 12.01.06 at 12:51 am

AGM- That is one of the best description of aggie-ness that I have ever heard. I will definitely have to remember that one. Enough chauvinism to piss of an entire state the size of Texas. And a state with the culture of Texas no less!

11

Scott Lemieux 12.01.06 at 2:17 am

Ironically, in my field Princeton is dominated by conservatives…

12

Daniel 12.01.06 at 2:25 am

I like this bit best:

Am I like them, just a bigot learning only what fits my worldview? That’s what he kept asking himself. But finally he reached the conclusion: No, he was not.

13

bad Jim 12.01.06 at 5:55 am

Am I a man dreaming that I’m a butterfly, or a carriage bolt dreaming that I’m a wingnut?

14

Barry 12.01.06 at 7:10 am

What’s interesting about the excerpt that’s available is this constant harping on the protagonist’s connection with the truth. The past 15 years has seen a noticeable attitude emerge on the right, int he USA. It’s that the truth doesn’t even matter anymore. Not just that lying is justifiable, but that the truth itself is irrelevant, and only interesting to (evul librul) intellectuals.

The US is now losing a war of choice, because the administration, and the media, and about half of American citizens, cared no more about the truth of things than they did about the proper use of the Sanskrit alphabet.

15

engels 12.01.06 at 7:24 am

Ah, what a leftwing hotbed Princeton must be, smugly self-doubting, sceptical and bigotted…

16

Steve LaBonne 12.01.06 at 10:15 am

As a Harvard alum I’m glad to see that the criminally insane wingnuts have found another university to pick on for a change. Though of course Yale is the one I would prefer to see abused. (I guess they can’t pick on a school whose campus is sacred by virtue of having been “graced” by the presence of Dear Leader. Come to think of it, he did get his MBA from HBS so maybe that’s why the nutters have switched to Princeton. ;) )

17

Matt Weiner 12.01.06 at 10:34 am

Enough chauvinism to piss of an entire state the size of Texas.

…a state that’s ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT HOW BIG IT IS, too.

18

Watson Aname 12.01.06 at 12:47 pm

…a state that’s ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT HOW BIG IT IS, too.

It is almost big enough to be a Canadian province. Somehow they don’t seem as appreciative of that fact as one might hope.

19

lalala 12.03.06 at 12:39 am

God, I hate Princeton. The soc department is fine, you’ll understand, but the institution itself…it sucks most mightily.

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