Bernstein at Volokh: I’m One of the Little People!

David Bernstein, Volokh conspirator and lawprof at George Mason Law School in Arlington, Virginny, is a regular guy.  No Chardonnay for him, I gather, from his scathing criticism of a reference in a  New York Times article on green homes, a favorite subject lately since green became the new black.

To prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s a shot and beer guy, Bernstein gives the Times a smack:

I often get a kick out of the subtle signals the Times sends that its target demographic is a Manhattanite with a family income of at least 500K a year. For example, in an article on green homes today: “The checklist for certification can be more daunting than a private-school application.” Note the assumption that (a) readers are familiar with private school applications; and (b) that the private schools that people send their kids to are extremely competitive and hard to get into, which I suspect account for a very small fraction of private schools nationwide and even New York City generally, but a large fraction of schools to which upper-income Manhattanites send their children.

Nice going Dave.  So if you ever get the job at NYU Law, your kid’s chances of getting into Horace Mann just went from slim to none.

The handful of private schools that they’re talking about aren’t your run-of-the-mill parochials, or omnipresent Busy Bee Nursery School.  We’re talking top of the line, the sort of school that you apply for at least 6 months before your child is born if you want any chance of getting junior into Harvard some day.  If you can’t grasp the difference, then it doesn’t matter because you don’t have a chance of getting a seat anyway.

The problem for Manhattanites is too many people with too much money and too few academic choices.  It’s a standing joke, but not a joke at all in New York City.  Of course, the Times reference was to the joke aspect, since we all make fun of the competitive nature of these schools, and how young parents live and die when the admissions letter arrives, their child’s entire life dependent on the contents.

Of course this isn’t representative of private schools nationwide.  It isn’t supposed to be.  This is Manhattan, not Topeka.  And trust me, Manhattan doesn’t want to be Topeka.  Not even on its worst day.  Stupid as this may be to the people who live happily in Topeka, it’s reality.  Elitist?  If they could put elitism in a can, there would be a store selling it on Madison Avenue in the 50s.

There are “the” schools to be in, and there are the rest.  No one cares about the rest.  That’s where loser children go, the ones who either didn’t cut it at the interview or whose parents are preparing their children for a life of misery. 

Those of us who escaped from the City have a good laugh at new émigrés, who rush to the best private schools within hours of closing on their house to sign the kiddies up.  They bring their city fears of missing the Yale Train, when our blue blook private schools aren’t quite as competitive.  Just as costly, mind you, but seats are still available.  It’s just the Manhattan mentality, the kill or be killed attitude of self-preservation. 

But David is dead wrong about the half mil crowd being the intended target of such references.  Parents will eat tuna for dinner daily if they have to in order to pay the freight of one of the “in” schools.  It’s what people in Manhattan do.  It’s like Carrie whats-her-name from Sex in the City buying Manolo Blahnik shoes.  There are some things that are worth the sacrifice.

So Bernstein wants to ridicule the New York Times to the frugal and struggling?  Who cares?  New York City doesn’t aspire to be frugal.  It aspires to be FABULOUS!  And it’s fine it that’s not your thing, which is why there are places around like Arlington, Virginny.  Or, frankly, anywhere other than Manhattan.

2 comments on “Bernstein at Volokh: I’m One of the Little People!

  1. Marc J. Randazza

    When I left Manhattan in 1995 for Florida, my friends said “you’ll be back in 6 months. You wont be able to stand it there.”

    Well, they were right about the latter part. I can’t stand it here. But, I did last longer than 6 months… since I spent at least a year trashed on the beach.

    During that year, I blew about 75% of my money on strip club tips and booze.

    I just pissed away the rest.

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