We are ruining America, notes dour New York Times columnist David Brooks, suddenly and considerably alarmed by a standard feature of American life, if not human nature—the tendency of the privileged and powerful to guard jealously every advantage they have been handed or earned. Brooks takes up his pen to offer a stinging rebuke: Members of the college-educated class, he writes, “have become amazingly good at making sure their children retain their privileged status. They have also become devastatingly good at making sure the children of other classes have limited chances to join their ranks.”
Brooks focuses his concern on the parenting style of privileged Americans, coining a brilliant neologism in the process, “pediacracy,” by which he means the determination of affluent parents to give their kids a leg up. “As soon as they get money, they turn it into investments in their kids,” he writes. Next come zoning laws that keep the poor and poorly educated out of well-off neighborhoods and excellent schools. Finally there’s access to elite colleges that cement the grip of top quintile families on the brass ring of their advantage.
Brooks, I think, confuses effects for causes. Mating, motherhood, and Middlebury are not the arenas where battles for opportunity are fought. They are the spoils of war accrued by those who’ve already won. He hits closer to the mark when he draws attention to “informal social barriers that segregate the lower 80 percent.” His Timesman’s bubble thick as armor, he virtue signals, chiding himself for insensitivity when describing how he took “a friend with only a high school degree” (note to Times copy desk: it’s called a “diploma”) to a gourmet sandwich shop. “Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named ‘Padrino’ and ‘Pomodoro’ and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican,” Brooks writes.