Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: email@example.com
Up here on the 13th Floor, we talk a lot among ourselves about how the nation's best and brightest are now more likely to work for big national companies than locally-based ones. A real up-and-comer will thus find himself or herself transferred to Chicago, rather than setting down roots in Muncie or Lacrosse and lending continued expertise and guidance to the home folks.
In that context, I was struck by this remark by cultural critic Terry Teachout on his blog. He talks about how few films speak to his own smalltown background since most are set among people in LA or New York. There's a reason for this, he says:
"It's a truism that authors write best when they write about what they know, and given the transformation of America's elite universities into instruments of meritocratic change, it's increasingly less likely that our college-educated artists will know much about anybody else. Back in the days of John P. Marquand and Louis Auchincloss, these institutions served as finishing schools for the northeastern upper class. Now they act as search engines that locate and recruit young men and women of promise from all across America, then indoctrinate them with the cultural assumptions of the New Class. Instead of going back where they came from, there to leaven the cultural loaf and in turn to be influenced by local opinions and customs, the successful products of the meritocratic machine are more likely to migrate to New Class-dominated cities and suburbs, where seldom is heard a contradictory word."
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