Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Don't Recruit from the Ivy League

I doubt that the views of R. R. Reno are indicative. After all, he edits a journal called First Things, which is dedicated to promoting conservative religious thought. So, for him to say that he no longer wants to recruit from Ivy League schools does not really count as news. 

On the other hand, his views appeared today in the Wall Street Journal, a publication that is read by more that a few American hiring officers. Thus, he is opening, or continuing, a conversation that might resonate beyond the conservative media.

Reno himself attended an excellent liberal arts college, Haverford College. While participating in a Zoom call he gained a rather negative impression of today’s college students, especially their exceptionally thin-skinned approach to everything.

Haverford is a progressive hothouse. If students can be traumatized by “insensitivity” on that leafy campus, then they’re unlikely to function as effective team members in an organization that has to deal with everyday realities. And in any event, I don’t want to hire someone who makes inflammatory accusations at the drop of a hat.

But, you will say, most students are not zealots and activists. Still, Reno continues, those who are not are cowed by those who are. He says that they have been intimidated into silence, while the world around them crumbles:

Student activists don’t represent the majority of students. But I find myself wondering about the silent acquiescence of most students. They allow themselves to be cowed by charges of racism and other sins. I sympathize. The atmosphere of intimidation in elite higher education is intense. But I don’t want to hire a person well-practiced in remaining silent when it costs something to speak up.

It has brought to mind the condition of Christians and Jews in the Islamic world. They were allowed to live in peace, but only as long as they accepted a subordinate role in society. The word for their condition is “dhimmitude.”

The traditional Islamic world exhibited a modicum of tolerance. Christians and Jews were dhimmi, allowed to exist, but on the condition that they accepted their subordinate role in society. While studying this arrangement, sociologists coined the term “dhimmitude,” which refers to the mentality of those who have internalized their second-class status.

Haverford, like Harvard and other top tier schools, graduates fine young people, no doubt many with well-adjusted personalities and sensible views of the world. But in the past decade, dhimmitude has become widespread. 

Normal kids at elite universities keep their heads down. Over the course of four years, this can become a subtle but real habit of obeisance, a condition of moral and spiritual surrender.

Those who are not social justice warriors have learned to keep their heads down, to surrender, morally and spiritually, the better to learn the habit of obeisance. One would like to underscore this thought, for its cogency and its truthfulness.

This is even true of those students who are of a more conservative disposition, students who would be desirable hires for First Things:

They would seem ideal for my organization, which aims to speak for religious and social conservatives. But even this kind of graduate brings liabilities to the workplace. I’ve met recent Ivy grads with conservative convictions who manifest a form of posttraumatic stress disorder. Others have developed a habit of aggressive counterpunching that is no more appealing in a young employee than the ruthless accusations of the woke.

Aggressive counterpunching, an attitude I have seen in people who have spent time in prison. Being subjected to so much abuse they develop a defensive posture whereby they are quick to take offense and quick to retaliate.

Dysfunctional kids are coddled and encouraged to nurture grievances, while normal kids are attacked and educationally abused. 

If not the Ivy League, what. Clearly, Reno prefers more conservative, religiously oriented institutions. 

My rule of thumb is to hire from institutions I advise young people to attend. Hillsdale College is at the top of that list, as are quirky small Catholic colleges such as Thomas Aquinas College, Wyoming Catholic College and the University of Dallas. 

But, he also adds, for the benefit of those who are running more secular organizations, state universities.

Large state universities and their satellite schools are also good sources. In my experience, top-performing students at Rutgers are as talented but less self-important than Ivy Leaguers. They’re more likely to accept the authority of those more experienced. This allows for better mentoring, which in turn produces better results over time.

Ivy League graduates are conditioned to panic over what Reno calls pseudocrises. He says that they are wallowing in “apocalyptic urgency” and are prone to jump whenever they hear words like diversity and inclusion:

The biggest liability that comes with hiring graduates from places like Haverford and Harvard is that they have been socialized to panic over pseudocrises. Talk of systemic racism and fixation on pronouns inculcate in young people an apocalyptic urgency, a mentality that often disrupts the workplace and encourages navel-gazing about “diversity,” “inclusion” and other ill-defined notions that are far removed from the main work of my organization, which is good writing, good editing and good arguments.

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