Bill Waddell argues that American government and business suffer from excessive dominance by people from a small number of “elite” colleges and prep schools.
In the comments, Costikyan Jarvis–who runs a family-owned manufacturing business–defends the value of the Harvard Executive Education program which he attended:
First, my professors were very diverse. They came from North America and Asia and had a variety of experiences. They had worked in private industry and some still served on boards of various companies. I enjoyed some more than others, but they were all excellent.
More important was the student body. I, and most of my other classmates, learned more from each other than our professors. Of the 143 people in the course, 45 are from the United States (about 30%). So yes, we were all located in Boston, but we came from all over the world.
I can not speak for the other programs, but if you ask my fellow classmates why they chose Harvard it is clear – we feel that Harvard is the best. Yes it is the best in our minds (we decided to spend the money), but there is no doubt that the institutions that you mentioned attract some of the best professors and students from all over the world.
Today, Bill responds to Costikyan’s response:
Costikyan is the 5th generation to keep things moving in the right direction at Jarvis Cutting Tools, and he went to an MBA program at Harvard, and, before that, a couple of other highfalutin eastern schools. Maybe he’s right and they taught him everything he needs to know to keep Jarvis Cutting Tools on top of their game, but my money says that when the going gets tough (as it always does for everyone and every company sooner or later) the 20 year or so year apprenticeship Costikyan served under his dad, Marshall, is what is going to get him and Jarvis Tools through.
So Costikyan, when you say that these schools attract the best professors, that is only because they get to define “best professor”. Fact is, they attract more professors like the ones they already have. The President of Harvard is from Penn; the Dean of the Business School is from Cornell and, you guessed it, Harvard. Of the 12 folks that specialize in Operations Management, there are 6 Ivy Leaguers, 3 from MIT, a Carnegie Melon, a Cambridge and a token westerner from Stanford. As I said – they have decided that the best is them – and they only hire the best, hence the inbreeding problem.
This interesting discussion continues at Evolving Excellence.