Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I don't normally have major disagreements with the Blogfaddah (and far be it from me to look an Instalanche in the mouth), but I have to take issue with Glenn's update to this post.

When I posted a link this morning, I didn’t see it as being as objectionable as these responses suggest, and on rereading I still don’t. Yes, there’s the air of Brooksian condescension toward the great unwashed, but that’s practically required for the NYT columnist gig, and remember, he’s trying to explain this stuff to the Upper West Side crowd. And I’m not so sure he’s using “educated class” in a positive way... And reader David Marcus writes: “When Brooks refers to the educated class, which your other commentators equated with Ivy League, I think he really is referring to the New Class as set out by Herman Kahn in the late 1970’s.”

I don't think so, Glenn. Brooks is a lot of things, but careless with words is not one of them. Brooks certainly knows both the etymology and meaning of "the New Class," and if that's what he'd meant, he'd have used it. I think the phrase "educated class" was chosen quite deliberately.

Have a look back at Brooks' last column, in which Brooks scolds at some length the "uneducated class" (my words, not his in this case) for "contemptuous and hysterical" criticism of the Administration's ham-handed response to the Pantybomber. Brooks goes on to label the nation at large as, "a country that must be spoken to in childish ways."

It'd also be different if Brooks didn't have a very long history for this kind of thing... but he does. Compare this inaugural paean to the wonders of the Obama Ivy League Mafia to his long-running trope of "Patio Man,", complete with sneers at the "guy who wears khakis to work each day, with the security badge on the belt clip."

I have to say though, the whole thing would have been more insulting if Brooks' standards for intellect and leadership weren't so amusingly superficial: perfectly creased pants and agreeing with David Brooks about Niebuhr--or at least responding "correctly" when asked about him. That's Brooks' definition of the "educated class," and the rubes in khakis need not apply.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg has a typically-sharp take on the Brooks column at The Corner.

UPDATE UPDATE: Eric S. Raymond has an excellent follow-up of his own.


  1. Brooks is typical of people who have grown up on the wrong side of the tracks in the right town (Wayne, PA). They spend the rest of their lives trying to prove to themselves that they are part of the "smart" set.

  2. I particularly relish all the cracks about uneducated rubes - since I have been active in a local Tea Party since early in March, 2009. The leadership cadre included three military veterans (two with degrees, although not from anyplace that Brooks would recognize, I daresay), a corporate lawyer, an accounting professor at a local (and liberal) university, a retired restaurant owner/manager, an IT geek with a 30-year history of running his own speciality consulting firm, a video editor/producer (also with his own business)a couple of teachers, a (non-medical) doctor ...
    hardly the ignorant yet well-intented sheeple that Brooksie was envisioning, I daresay.

  3. I think David B is actually a fairly astute social commentator, and he has by no means always been kind to Ivy League urban professional set: after all, it was he who coined the term "bourgeois bohemians" (BOBOs).

    But in the subject article, he is using "educated class" in a context where "credentialed class" would be more appropriate. There are a lot of people with "elite" college degrees who actually possess very little knowledge.

    BTW, I just put up a post critiquing a different Brooks column.

  4. I have to agree to disagree with Glen. When I read the op-ed, I understood that Brooks was speaking of the frustration of the educated class, that so many of us are not in awe of Obama's quite superior intellect, and by extension the intellect of all those journalists, writers, artists, lawyers and et. al. that have IVY League educations. I have sat in classes with these guys for years. They are all intelligent and have impressed their professors because they can parrot back the lines flawlessly, but they have never had an original thought in their lives. These guys are stupid, not because they do not have a brain, but because they do not use it. The major flaw that I see in Obama is that he operates in the wrong world view to be President of the United States. He will be a failure for it.Even today he is lecturing the entire world as though they were a week late with their assignment.

  5. The world is full of educated fools and Brooks appears to be one.

  6. Brooks says, " The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting."

    He clearly believes the Tea Party folks are basing their opinions on nothing more than being contrary to the "educated class." With the title "Tea Party Teens," and the statement that the movement's adherents "are defined by what they are against," the entire point of the column is that tea partiers are, at least at this point, nothing more than a bunch of petulant adolescents acting out in a rebellious fit.

    Why would Prof. Reynolds think that's not insulting? Maybe because Brooks at least had the good taste to avoid calling them "tea-baggers."

  7. When I hear "New Class" I think of those 'Goddamn Phonies' that Holden Caulfield was on about. Sorry, I'll sit back and let my intellectual betters manage things (it certainly has worked so far).

  8. An interesting question: why is it that the Ivy League has so manifestly failed America in the last 40 years?

  9. Mr. Collier, I agree with you on this one...so I added you to my blog roll, so perhaps, my 12 loyal readers may take a look at your blog.


  10. "The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise"...I think DB is mistaken about the cause-and-effect relationship here. What is *really* going on is that the category of people DB is referring to as "the educated class" is exhibiting follow-the-leader, sheep-like behavior, to a greater extent than other groups in the society. Truth is, the average liberal arts graduate, Ivy League or not, has no understanding of the science involved in climate studies and no interest in learning anything about such science..hence, his/her belief in global warming is likely to be follow-the-group, with a strong signaling element.

  11. My own take on David B's column is that he is overly impressed by the credentials of those he hob nobs with and likes to use the convenient but false picture of the tea party right that liberals have pandered for years. Of the Tea partiers that I know (I am one) everyone has at least a bachelors degree. Many have Master's degrees, some multiple. Several, including myself, have PhD's. Occupations range from Doctors, medical to engineers, mechanical and chemical, to computer geeks and more. But we are just rubes because we don't listen to our "betters". Those betters hopefully are in for a surprise starting in 2010.
    The Tea party in not republican and anti-democrat they are anti-politician who does not realize he works for us. As many have said altely, we need to clean house, and the senate.

  12. Brooks seems to be using the phrase "educated class" to mean "the pundits and other people who espouse the positions I've mentioned here." It is a laughably circular and roundly insulting piece of idiocy that assumes nobody who disagrees with those positions could be "educated." Ridiculous on its face.

  13. If you do a Google search on "educated class" and David Brooks you'll note (once you get through all the links to the boomlet over today's column) that he's used the term before in his book and essays relating to the book on the PBS site. I think he has a very intentional use of the phrase and in his mind he probably knows exactly what he means. I think "credentialed class" is exactly the correct reading of it, though there is also a social status element to it as well.

  14. ...it was he who coined the term "bourgeois bohemians" (BOBOs).

    Primarily as a way of showing that, while he'd come into prominence as a "conservative," he certainly wasn't one of that close-minded, grasping, class that didn't know Diderot from doo-doo. Now this fool realizes the thoroughbreds to which he hitched his wagon can't pull worth a damn, so he's shooting every workhorse in sight to hide his stupidity.

  15. Brooks has made a number of assertions that are factually incorrect. They flow naturally from flawed assumptions that are shared by most liberals. In this regard, he is very much like Peggy Noonan.

    Start with the idea that tea-baggers are not smart or not educated. We may not have a lot of socioeconomic data on them, but we do know a great deal about those who listen to Rush Limbaugh and I would suggest that there is likely to be a great deal of similarity in the two groups. Rush's listeners are much better educated than average, more successful financially, and work much longer hours than the average American. I wouldn't be surprised if David Brooks would be shocked to learn that. Of course, there's really no excuse for him not to know these things. But I suspect he's never bothered to learn the truth.

    The same unfounded assumptions which would lead him to underestimate Rush's listeners are at work in this column. Now let's take it a step further -- tea parties were driven in large part by bloggers on the web. We know they tend to be even better educated than the average listener of Limbaugh's.

    Again, I don't have data on the average attendee of a tea party. But I know a large number of people who have been involved or are sympathetic to the cause. Given the evidence available about the tea partiers and my own contacts, it seems likely that David Brooks has no idea who these people are or what they think. He'd be shocked at how much smarter, more practical, and better-versed on the facts they are.

  16. I just find it funny that the people he refers to as "The educated class" are really just a bunch of liberal arts and social sciences majors who can't do math.