Thursday, July 31

Melting Pot - In the September edition of The Atlantic magazine, I read an interesting new article, not yet posted online, by David Brooks. The story was about diversity and the gist was that a diverse society gets a lot of lip service, but not much action. Diversity is undermined because people make choices to be insulated and surround themselves with other people like them. He cites some interesting examples, which are clearly relevant for readers of this blog:
    "In the Washington, DC area, Democratic lawyers tend to live in suburban Maryland, and Republican lawyers tend to live in suburban Virginia. If you asked a Democratic lawyer to move from her $750,000 house in Bethesda to a $750,000 house in Great Falls, she'd look at you as if you had just asked her to buy a pickup truck with a gun rack and shove chewing tobacco in her kids's mouth."

What do you think, John? Is this a fair generalization of the biases of lawyers in Washington?

Next up, Brooks mentions some statistics about education levels that are clearly supposed to resonate with readers of The Atlantic, and translate well for Beaverhausen readers:

    "Think of your twelve closest friends. If you had chosen them randonly from the American population, the odds that half of your twelve closest friends would be college graduates would be six in a thousand. The odds that half of the twelve would have advanced degrees would be less than one in a million. Have any of your closest friends graduated from Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Caltech, MIT, Duke, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, Chicago or Brown? If you chose your friends randomly from the American population, the odds against your having four or more friends from those schools would be more than a billion to one. Many of us live in absurdly unlikely groupings, because have organized our lives that way."

Well, okay, yes, my twelve closest friends went to college, many have advanced degrees, and mabe even attended an elite university. But, is it overstating the obvious to say that if you attended one of those schools, you would have friends who also attended those schools? In turn, aren't people who graduated from college more likely to attend graduate school than people who have not? Nothing he's saying is a revelation. It's natural to have formed friendships at work and at school, isn't it?

So, let's turn to Brooks' advise in the closing paragraphs of his essay:

    "If you live in a coastal, socially liberal neighborhood, maybe you should take out a subscription to The Door, the evangelical humor magazine; or maybe you should visit Branson, Missouri. Maybe you should stop in at a megachurch. Sure, it would be superficial familiarity, but it beats the iron curtains that now separate the nations's various cultural zones."

He's kidding right? Can you feel his disdain in the choices he offers? Not a local congregation, but a megachurch. Not a quaint city with an old fashioned downtown, but Branson. Do any of us really believe that such actions would help the "congealing pot" become the metaphorical "melting pot"?