June 30, 2016

"Yale [Law School] made me feel, for the first time in my life, that others viewed my life with intrigue."

"Professors and classmates seemed genuinely interested in what seemed to me a superficially boring story: I went to a mediocre public high school, my parents didn’t go to college, and I grew up in Ohio. The same was true of nearly everyone I knew. At Yale, these things were true of no one. Even my service in the Marine Corps was pretty common in Ohio, but at Yale, many of my friends had never spent time with a veteran of America’s newest wars. In other words, I was an anomaly. That’s not exactly a bad thing. For much of that first year in law school, I reveled in the fact that I was the only big marine with a Southern twang at my elite law school...."

From "As A Poor Kid From The Rust Belt, Yale Law School Brought Me Face-to-face With Radical Inequality," by J.D. Vance. This is an extract from the book, "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis."

46 comments:

Susan said...

How do you develop a "southern twang" growing up in Ohio?

That just seemed weird to me.

Otherwise seems pretty spot on. Even in the public school where I work in a rinky-dink small town there is a real gulf between the poverty-stricken students and the well-to-do.

MadisonMan said...

Am I supposed to be surprised that there is blatant classism at Yale Law?

It looks like an interesting book. Given my rural(ish) upbringing, I'll probably enjoy it.

campy said...

But is he an Althouse Hillbilly?

Michael McClain said...

Such insular isolation has developed the toxic group-think we see among the so-called "elite" universities. This is an influential factor in how the nation has developed into the sorry mess in which it finds itself.

Ann Althouse said...

"How do you develop a "southern twang" growing up in Ohio?"

It's practically Kentucky in southern Ohio, and I think if you get into the "hillbilly" part, there is a southern accent.

dmoelling said...

Susan, you need to go on the Ohio river which is the boundary between West Virgina, Kentucky and Ohio.

There is a distinct accent in places like Marietta Ohio and others. It's also a hilly area much like across the river. It's coal country with mines and power plants, not primarily farm country. Northern Ohio is the flat farmland originally settled by emigrants from New England (for soil without rocks) and later by Germans. The accent in Southern Ohio and Indiana is very much like Kentucky and West Virginia. This is much different from the deep south or Texas accents.

Ann Althouse said...

I thought the author lacked some insight into how much other people felt like outsiders and also how much the law school is trying to assemble of bunch of students who are all different from each other and how diversity is the value that's the school itself is trying to exalt. It's easiest to write a memoir and tell your own point of view, how different and outside you feel.

Note: I'm not saying the school's policy is ideal, just that diversity is the idea and he fit some aspects of diversity, like some unstated portion of the Yale student body, all of whom had to deal with their own subjective experience of differentness.

Wilbur said...

When I went to the University of Illinois, it was not uncommon for any student from the Chicago area to regard anyone from south of Kankakee as having a southern accent. Nothing malicious about it, just a bit ignorant.

I can't imagine what they'd think at Yale about a sod-buster prairie child.

Sebastian said...

Hmm.

"More important, I didn’t think it mattered; all lawyers get good jobs, I assumed. I just needed to get to any law school, and then I’d do fine: a nice salary, a respectable profession, and the American Dream . . . But I just couldn’t ask. I had never met this person, never taken a class with her, and, most of all, didn’t trust her." I do not believe this happened in this way.

“This is a vomit of sentences masquerading as a paragraph. Fix.” I heard through the grapevine that this professor thought Yale should accept only students from places like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton: “It’s not our job to do remedial education, and too many of these other kids need it.” I do not believe this was the extent of the feedback he received.

"Part of it is that I stopped being ashamed" I do not believe he was ever deeply ashamed.

Michael said...

Althouse

But he made it clear that the "diversity" was principally of skin color and not of class. That was the point wasn't it?

tim in vermont said...

As my dad used to say, "They can whistle Dixie with the best of 'em in Cincinnati."


"Not everything came easy." Come on, man, you are writing for publication.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

That guy's a piker. I felt horribly out of place and I went to a law school that was third-tier, soaking wet.

tim in vermont said...

I do not believe this happened in this way.

Why not? I believe it easily. It could easily have been me, but maybe you come from a more privileged background than he and I where you automatically assume that you have a right to the time of important people. Not to mention, if he could make that stuff up, he should be writing fiction. Sometimes people accuse me of making stuff up that I say, and my response has always been "I only wish I could make this shit up!"

LarsPorsena said...

"...diversity is the value that's the school itself is trying to exalt..."

That's the problem. The academic world pursues 'diversity' not excellence, merit, the advancement of human knowledge, and other trivia.

Sebastian said...

I do not think a reasonable OU grad and veteran who is considering applying to law schools has done no research on his intended profession and thinks, around 2010, that all lawyers get good jobs, or that he shouldn't ask a dean to sign a form because he hasn't met and therefore doesn't trust her.

Robert Cook said...

I was born in southern Indiana, (Evansville, right across the river from Kentucky), and though we moved (to Florida) when I was 8, we visited family back in Indiana for a number of consecutive summers, and sporadically thereafter. Yes, many of the people there--a state considered part of the mid-west--sound like hillbillies.

Once written, twice... said...

No he is not an Althouse Hillbilly. Words can have different meanings and contexts.

An Althouse Hillbilly is a small minded right wing conservative who hangs around Ann's "porch" waiting for her to throw them some "red meat." While Ann still engages in this internet baiting to get followers on the cheap, she did scale it back after these same hillbillies turned on her last year over the issue of gay marriage.

Althouse Hillbillies (and right wing hillbillies in general) are not limited to any one region, class, race, economic group, education level,etc. Instead, it is a discriptor of a trait shared by individuals who actively seek being fooled by snake oil con artists who are empowered by having adherents.

Hense the rise of Donald Trump.

n.n said...

[Class] diversity schemes do not recognize or actively reject individual dignity. They include pro-choice or selective discrimination of individuals based on race, ethnicity, sex, social status, skin color, etc.

madAsHell said...

How does a kid from Ohio develop a southern twang?

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Sounds more like maybe the descriptor (what?) should be "Althouse dogs."

PB said...

I grew up in Ohio. South and east of Columbus the closer you get to the Ohio river (except Cincinnati which has German extractions) there is a distinct accent that can be classified as southern. You can see it as far north as Dayton. From Columbus north, it's noticeable for a distinct flat "a".

Tank said...

The Southern half of Ohio looks to be below the Mason Dixon line. No?

sean said...

What's interesting to me is, why are people so unaware of the generous financial aid at the top schools? Or maybe they aren't; maybe the problem for the author and his friends is that they grew up in a culture that didn't value education, and therefore was unaware of pretty much all facts about American higher education. I wonder if the Asian immigrants in Flushing are familiar with Ivy League financial aid policies.

CJinPA said...

We now produce navel-gazing Marines.

He seems like a good and hardworking guy. And he landed a book deal. I appreciate his insights about how odd a creature he was considered to be at Yale.

But good grief, chronicling how you felt at each interaction along the way and trying to shoehorn it into some Grand Meaning grows pretty tiresome. And that's just one excerpt. I consider it a blessing that I just lived my college years, in the moment and in that particular place, assured that any Grand Meaning would be found out there - in the real world.

Sebastian said...

"What's interesting to me is, why are people so unaware of the generous financial aid at the top schools? Or maybe they aren't" No Marine vet and OU grad is unaware of the possibility of getting substantial financial aid at major schools. I call BS on the hillbilly pose.

Once written, twice... said...

Eric the Fruit Bat suggested "Althouse Dogs" would be better.

I would never. That would be unnecessarily insulting.

mikee said...

People from Ohio have a southern twang? Only if they're faking one, says this boy from Carolina.

buster said...

I attended Yale Law in the late '70s and had more or less the same background. (Air Force intead of Marines, Berkeley,instead of Ohio State.) I never once felt socially excluded or marginalized. I was socially and politically conservative, but didn't get much pushback. The faculty was mostly left-wing, but always open to conservative arguments.

Richard Dolan said...

AA: "I thought the author lacked some insight into how much other people felt like outsiders and also how much the law school is trying to assemble of bunch of students who are all different from each other and how diversity is the value that's the school itself is trying to exalt."

That seemed an odd reaction. Yale LS isn't all that diverse on the social class metrics he is talking about (none of the major law schools is). When I read his account, I kept thinking back to books like Charles Murray's Coming Apart and Nicholas Wade's Troubled Inheritance. Vance is telling a story at the intersection of the many divides in America, and it's hardly surprising that the vortex was trying to pull him apart. Nice to know that he made it through more or less intact. Semper fi.

rehajm said...

As a Poor Hick From The Rust Belt, Yale Law School Brought Me Face-to-face With Radical Equality of Opportunity and I'm Too Blinded by My Own Ignorance To See It.

virgil xenophon said...

Obviously a lot of people here have never heard of the "Grits Line" which is the TRUE :) dividing line between North and South,. North of the line one is automatically served hashbrowns with breakfast unless ordered otherwise, south one automatically is served grits unless one orders otherwise. The line begins at DC and arcs up over W. Virginia, thru southern Ohio just touching Columbus, continues due west bisecting the southern half of Indiana and Illinois, then bending down thru Mizzou, SW OKLA, down north of the Fort Worth area and then SW ending up at approx Del Rio on the Texas border.

I was born and raised in Charleston, Ill, just 70mi due west of Terre Haute, Ind., site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and the one in which Lincoln is said by many historians to have given his most "racist" speech because of the Southern sympathies of the populace, Charleston was also the site of the "Copperhead Rebellion" during the Civil War by Southern sympathizers Almost all of the southern half of Ind & Illinois was settled, in the main, by Scots-Irish from Eastern Ky and Tenn hill country. SOooo......LOTS of "southern" influence in the "midwest."

Birches said...

I believe him when he says he didn't know it was the cheapest option. When I was applying to college, I didn't know the Ivies would be the cheapest either.

Sebastian said...

The most radical inequality at schools like Yale is between the suckers who pay full fare and the takers on the receiving end. In college, the main suckers are foreign, but redistribution from filthy rich and scrimping middle-class Asians to native-born groups privileged by Prog fads du jour is all good.

Mary Martha said...

"How do you develop a "southern twang" growing up in Ohio?"

To quote an acquaintance from the area "Southern Ohio is really just northern Kentucky"

Paul Snively said...

Grew up in Columbus, Indiana, which means I missed having a "southern accent" by about 10 miles, which would be Seymour, where John Mellencamp is from. Anything south of that—New Albany, Madison, Robert Cook's Evansville—is essentially indistinguishable from northern Kentucky. Southern Ohio, right on the Ohio river, is no different.

Freeman Hunt said...

I grew up in Arkansas, and people are often disappointed that I don't have an accent. "People from the part of Arkansas where I grew up all sound like this." (Something I said a few days ago in an elevator to someone who said, "Arkansas?! But you don't have an accent.")

Martha said...

My son went to Yale Law School and he grew up in New Orleans and no one at YLS seemed surprised that he had no Southern accent.

J.D. Vance is now a - ‎Principal at Mithril Capital Management LLC - ‎in San Francisco.
I think he no longer feels out of place with the movers and shakers.

Paul Snively said...

Martha, I just recently visited New Orleans again (it had been too long), and learned that "southern accent" is an "English" thing, and the English who live in New Orleans indeed do not have it. As for the non-English ("Creole"), they of course famously have a different, very distinctive, accent.

I also learned, much to my amusement, that "Creole" basically meant "non-English and non-Protestant, which is to say, Catholic," but when the German Lutherans arrived, they were considered honorary "Creole" for being much more like the Catholics than any of the evangelical Protestants the "Creole" really didn't care for.

tim in vermont said...

How are all of the insults working out for you Once? Did they work for the Brexit opponents?

Personally, I was getting a little down not having been called a "hillbilly" for a few days, but I feel better now. It's like going to Paris and not getting insulted by a waiter, you feel like you've been shortchanged, somehow.

William Jamieson said...

Lots of Southern-type accents in NE Ohio, too. Not Cleveland necessarily. I have long thought the dividing line was Ohio Route 82. 82 runs east-west, from the southwestern suburbs of Cleveland and east to the PA line. Runs N of Akron, through Warren, N of Youngstown.

Those people that I encountered south of that line often had a southern accent.

SE OH was populated by the same frontier people who populated other trans-Appalachian areas. Mostly Scots-Irish. More recently, early - mid 20th Century, the steel, auto and rubber plants in Cleveland and Akron attracted a lot of people from SE Ohio, KY, WV and other parts South.

It is not unusual to encounter a Southern accent in parts of Ohio. On a similar note, I have read that the accent in Pittsburgh is unique to Pittsburgh, which is fascinating.

Bill

Rex said...

The Cincinnati airport is actually across the river in Kentucky.

Mary E. Glynn said...
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Mary E. Glynn said...
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Freeman Hunt said...

The elevator was in Nevada.

virgil xenophon said...

@Paul Snively/

New Orleans is famously known as "The Brooklyn of the South" because of the blue-collar accents of the mainly Irish Immigrants who ended up there. And the word "Creole" means one thing in New Orleans and another in the rest of south Louisiana. Outside of New Orleans "Creole" is used to describe the mixed-race (White, black and Indian) Catholics who are distinguished from blacks (mainly Protestant and very little mixed) and Protestant and/or Catholic whites. Thus in every little town in SW Louisiana there are three of everything--the white undertaker, the black undertaker, and the Creole undertaker, the white barber, etc. This also extends to the Churches. Protestant for blacks, Catholic for whites and another, separate Catholic church that Creoles frequent.

New Orleans whites of French extraction are quick to say that only THEY are true Creoles and that there is no such thing as a mixed-race Creole, but one may peruse pre-Civil War newspaper want-ads for "Black Creoles" to see the error of this. It's simply that "white Creoles" (descendants of the original French settlers) in New Orleans don't want their legacy sullied by association with blacks. One may see the mixed-race Creole influence in XAVIER Univ in New Orleans, said by people who don't know Louisiana history to be "the only Black university in America that is Catholic and the only Catholic university in America that is black." This is true only insofar as the Univ was originally founded by mixed-race Creoles exclusively for their own kind, NOT by "blacks". It is only over the intervening years that it has since acquired a substantial "black" student body.

Michael K said...

"it is a discriptor of a trait shared by individuals who actively seek being fooled by snake oil con artists who are empowered by having adherents."

Says the poor pitiful Hillary voter who has no idea of how the world works.

I was a kid from a family in which I was the first to attend college. I had no idea of how to find financial aid and, when my scholarship to CalTech did not come through, I went to another school that offered a scholarship but was much more social than i was used to.

Dick Cheney was a kid from Montana who did not fit the Yale mold.