22 September 2007

Saturday Morning Snark

Quick — what is this passage referring to (no fair clicking the link before you guess)?

In the face of such growth, the [system] is inert, a rigged and confined stage for lumbering stereotypes. You have to go back to the Gilded Age to find another era [] so closed and anti-expansion. In 1873, Harvard declined to join with Yale and Princeton in a rules convention, because, as it said haughtily, "Harvard stands entirely distinctly by herself []."

Here's the source article in today's WaPo.

It's ok, I guess, if you thought immediately "It must be something academic, right?" Nope. It's about college football, in an unusually sensible article by Sally Jenkins. (Unusually sensible because it attempts to put sport in context, not because Jenkins is usually off-target... at least, not any more off-target than any other commentator on sport.) However, it might as well be about either legal education in general or the Blue Book citation system.

Perhaps Harvard, on average, really does turn out excellent attorneys; perhaps it's just that the bottom of Harvard's class is the part that ends up in big firms. The statistitically nonvalid sample I've run across has not been impressive — not nearly as impressive as Northwestern, or Cal-Berkeley, or Stanford graduates with whom I've worked and/or locked horns. But leaving my personal experience aside, it remains impossible to explain the continued dominance of Harvard in legal education (or in citation systems!) without thinking that it sounds an awful lot like the BCS... and ignores the vast areas of sport in which the Ivy League has not nearly so grand a tradition. Perhaps, the week after next, we should celebrate October Madness to go along with March Madness...