Douthat, Ross Gregory 1979–
Douthat, Ross Gregory 1979–
PERSONAL: Born 1979. Education: Graduated from Harvard University, 2002.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Hyperion Books, 77 W. 66th St., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10023.
CAREER: National Review, research intern; Atlantic Monthly, Boston, MA, editorial analyst.
Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: An editorial analyst at the Atlantic Monthly, Ross Gregory Douthat is also an alumnus of Harvard University, and in his 2005 book, Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class, he provides a personal view of that institution and of the four years he spent there from 1998 to 2002. Ari Sigal, writing in Library Journal, found the book a "stark memoir" in that Douthat, though he enjoyed his time at Harvard, also has harsh criticism for the college and what he sees as its culture of elitism, grade inflation, mindless socializing, and careerism. As Douthat told Kathryn Jean Lopez for the National Review Online: "There's plenty of actual learning going on—but all too often, it feels optional, both because the environment of the place is career-focused rather than learning-focused, and because the curriculum makes it easy to skate through without being challenged." Speaking on the Washingtonian Online with Bill O'Sullivan, Douthat enlarged on this critique: "I don't want to pretend that there was some golden age in the past when everyone in elite colleges was just pursuing the life of the mind with no thought of personal gain." However, he noted, "I think that the pendulum has swung too far away from notions of idealism and service now, and toward careerism and success for success's sake." He went on to comment: "Today's elite universities are surprisingly depoliticized places," but Douthat believes this depoliticization has occurred because all members of the academy—including students, faculty, and administrators—"are primarily concerned with careerism and the bottom line, rather than with the older ideological debates." Politically conservative, Douthat confessed to Lopez that at times he wished he could socialize with Trotskyists, since "at least the Trotskyists cared about the important stuff."
Critical response to Douthat's memoir was generally positive. William F. Buckley, Jr., writing in the National Review, called Privilege a "satisfying account of the Harvard experience," while Sigal called it a "grim retrospective." Similarly, Booklist contributor Bryce Christensen found Privilege a "withering indictment of Harvard's institutional culture." A critic for Kirkus Reviews felt the same work is "quite thoughtful," and went on to praise the "controlled verve" of Douthat's writing.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Douthat, Ross Gregory, Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.
Booklist, February 1, 2005, Bryce Christensen, "Harvard under Siege," review of Privilege, p. 922.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2005, review of Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class, p. 31.
Library Journal, February 15, 2005, Ari Sigal, review of Privilege, p. 142.
National Review, March 28, 2005, William F. Buckley, Jr., "Blushing Crimson," review of Privilege, p. 44.
Biscuit Report, http://www.kafka.com/ (February 23, 2005), "Ross Douthat Is Bitter about Harvard."
National Review Online, http://www.nationalreview.com/ (May 26, 2005), Kathryn Jean Lopez, "Harvard Gone Wild."
Washingtonian Online, http://www.washingtonian.com/ (May 26, 2005), "Washingtonian Book Club: Featuring Ross Gregory Douthat."