Wednesday, December 22, 2010

From C.Wright Mills' `The Power Elite'--Part 10

In his classic book, The Power Elite, sociologist C.Wright Mills wrote the following in reference to the U.S. prep school educational system:

"Within and between the upper-class families as well as their firms and offices, there are the schoolboy friendships and the prep schools and the college clubs, and later the key social and political clubs. And, in all these houses and organizations, there are the men who will later--or at the time of meeting--operate in the diverse higher circles of modern society.

"The exclusive schools and clubs and resorts of the upper social classes are not exclusive merely because their members are snobs. Such locales and associations have a real part in building the upper-class character, and more than that, the connections to which they naturally lead help to link one higher circle with another.

"So the distinguished law student, after prep school and Harvard, is `clerk' to a Supreme Court judge, then a corporation lawyer, then in the diplomatic service, then in the law firm again. In each of these spheres, he meets and knows men of his own kind, and, as a kind of continuum, there are the old family friends and the schoolboy chums, the dinners at the club, and each year of his life the summer resorts. In each of these circles in which he moves, he acquires and exercises a confidence in his own ability to judge, to decide, and in this confidence he is supported by his ready access to the experience and sensibility of those who are his social peers and who act with decision in each of the important institutions and areas of public life. One does not turn one's back on a man whose presence is accepted in such circles, even under most trying circumstances. All over the top of the nation, he is`in,' his appearance, a certificate of social position; his voice and manner, a badge of proper training, his associates, proof at once of their acceptance and of his stereotyped discernment."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

From C.Wright Mills' `The Power Elite'--Part 9

In his classic book, The Power Elite, sociologist C.Wright Mills wrote the following in reference to the U.S. prep school educational system:

"...The prep schools for boys are usually within a convenient range of boarding schools for girls of similar age, and several times a year the students from each are thrown together for chaperoned occasions. There are, in addition, the sisters of the other boys and the brothers of the other girls. And for those attending the more exclusive...colleges, there are formally arranged visits and parties--in short, dating patterns--established between them. On the college level, the exclusive schools become components of a broadened marriage market, which brings into dating relation the children of the upper social classes of the nation...

"Accordingly, in the inner circles of the upper classes, the most impersonal problems of the largest and most important institutions are fused with the sentiments and worries of small, closed, intimate groups. This is one very important meaning of the upper-class family and of the upper-class school: `background' is one way in which, on the basiss of intimate association, the activities of an upper class may be tacitly co-ordinated. It is also important because in such circles, adolescent boys and girls are exposed to the table conversations of decision-makers, and thus have bred into them the informal skills and pretensions of decision-makers; in short, they imbibe what is called `judgment.' Without conscious effort, they absorb the aspiration to be--if not the conviction that they are--The Ones Who Decide..."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

From C.Wright Mills' `The Power Elite'--Part 8

In his classic book, The Power Elite, sociologist C.Wright Mills wrote the following in reference to the U.S. prep school educational system:

"Harvard or Yale or Princeton is not enough. It is the really exclusive prep school that counts, for that determines which of the `two Harvards' one attends. The clubs and cliques of college are usually composed of carry-overs of association and name made in the lower levels at the proper schools; one's friends at Harvard are friends made at prep school. That is why in the upper social classes, it does not by itself mean much merely to have a degree from an Ivy League college. That is assumed: the point is not Harvard, but which Harvard? By Harvard, one means Porcellian, Fly, or A.D.: by Yale, one means Zeta Psi or Fence or Delta Kappa Epsilon; by Princeton, Cottage, Tiger, Cap and Gown, or Ivy. It is the prestige of a properly certified secondary education followed by a proper club in a proper Ivy League college that is the standard admission ticket to the world of urban clubs and parties in any major city of the nation. To the prestige of the voice and manner, constructed in such schools, local loyalties bow, for that experience is a major clue to the nation-wide upper class that is homogeneous and self-conscious..."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

From C.Wright Mills' `The Power Elite'--Part 7

In his classic book, The Power Elite, sociologist C.Wright Mills wrote the following in reference to the U.S. prep school educational system:

"These schools are not usually oriented to any obvious practical end. It is true that the...schools are invariably preparatory for college...But the middle-class ethos of competitiveness is generally lacking. One should, the school seems to say, compare one's work and activity not with the boy or girl next to you, but with what you and your teacher believe is your own best. Besides, if you are too interested, you become conspicuous.

"Certainly competition for status among students is held to a minimum...

"The elders of the school community are those older children in the higher Forms, and they become the models aspired to by the younger children...Care is taken that the self-image of the child not be slapped down, as it might by an insecure parent, and that manners at table as elsewhere be imbibed from the general atmosphere rather than from authoritarian and forbidding figures.

"Then one will always know what to do, even if one is sometimes puzzled. One will react appropriately upon meeting the man who is too carefully groomed and above all, the man who tries too hard to please, for one knows that that is not necessary if one is `the right sort of person.' There will be the manner of simplicity and the easy dignity that can arise only out of an inner certainty that one's being is a definitely established fact of one's world, from which one cannot be excluded, ignored, snubbed, or paid off. And in due course, as a young broker, banker, executive, one will feel smooth and handsome, with the easy bonhomie, the look of superior amusement, and all the useful friendships; one will have just the proper touch of deference toward the older men, even if they are members of your own club, and just the right degree of intelligence and enthusiasms--but not too much of either, for one's style is, after all, a realization of the motto of one's schooling: nothing in excess..."