You probably expect me to say something about how reading the New York Times is bad for our children. Maybe you think it’s too liberal when it should be unbiased. But what I’m concerned about is their hiring practices. In this, they share the blame with other companies that try to prove how great they are because they like to brag that they hire graduates of elite universities. So what’s the problem? Why do I care where the New York Times looks to hire if I don’t want a job with them? Whey should you care?
In a series of articles, I covered how research at both Harvard and Stanford show that the current college application process is hurting the mental health of our students. Anxiety and the more devastating youth suicide rates are both on the rise on college campuses. While the causes of these rises are complex, the research at both of these “esteemed” universities show that the college application process shares a large part of the blame. However, both of these universities must not set much store in the capabilities of their “esteemed” faculty that they brag about, because neither one of them has taken significant steps to change their application process.
After lots of research into our current education and college application process, I have found the whole situation to be very frustrating. I keep trying to decide that this is an area that I’m spending lots of wasted time worrying about. Because I really can’t do anything about it. There are lots of people with much more influence and much more money than me, who are trying and not getting very far. Instead, I am trying to shift my focus to helping my own children navigate this broken system.
However, no matter how much I try to ignore it, I keep running into this issue again and again. Recently I was listening to a Wall Street journal podcast, Secrets of Wealthy Women – Soledad O’Brien: the business of speaking your mind. In it, at about 16:00, O’Brien said, “The guy who does the internships for the New York Times, was tweeting about here’s the type of schools where we like to get our interns from, and they were all the top tier schools, Harvard… Columbia I believe…” her point was that this does not help diversity.
But my point is that this helps perpetuate the thought that if you want to get an elite and respected job you have to go to an elite college.
This bothered me enough that I spent some time looking for this tweet, but couldn’t find it. Eventually I gave up, because what good was it going to do me to find that anyway? Not worth my time, remember?
But then I was reading one of my book club selections for the month, Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, by Bruce Feiler.
From the book description: “Learning to Bow has been heralded as one of the funniest, liveliest, and most insightful books ever written about the clash of cultures between America and Japan.”
I expected a fun and informative read.
What I did not expect was extensive commentary on the Japanese educational system and comparisons with the United States. But because the author wrote it of his time spent in Japan teaching English, it naturally included a lot of information on the Japanese educational system. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised. I have written about similarities that I have seen with the Japanese system before, Karoshi – chilling similarities with American high school workloads, about the similarities between what’s happening in American schools today and schools in Japan that has lead to high rates of “death from overwork” in Japan.
I will save a lot of this discussion for a book review and future post, but here is what got my attention and made me feel like I couldn’t ignore what I had just heard on the WSJ podcast, about bragging about only hiring people who graduate from elite colleges and universities.
“Since it’s inception, the university selection process [in Japan] has been pivotal because of the importance placed on graduating from select institution[s]. In 1937, for example, 75% of the people accepted for upper level civil servant jobs and almost half of the company presidents come from Todai. In 1987, the figures were almost identical….ambitious mothers… Explain to their children that in order to achieve a prestigious career, they must attend an elite university… Thus… In the 20th century.. The number of private academies, which – for a fee – promise to prepare students for the exams [increased.]” – Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, by Bruce Feiler.
Keep that in mind as you read my article about the chilling similarity between Karoshi – chilling similarities with American high school workloads. Do you see any similarities to things occurring at your own high school? Because it’s happening across the country.
I would urge the New York Times, and all employers, to think about this. Responsible companies will look at a broader range of schools for their interns and new employees. It’s time we all quit giving “elite”universities our fawning prestige that they perpetuate at our children’s expense.