Thursday, May 26, 2011

Acclaim by Association

If I told you that I have an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school, a doctorate from another top American university, and once worked on Capitol Hill, would that make you interested in reading my blog?  I don't think so.  (And yes, those really are my credentials.)

And yet this week, I received an e-mail from a French fellow eager for me to post a review of his new book of poetry.  He didn't offer to send me the book; he didn't even share a few of his poems.  No, instead he told me that he was a professor at HEC (one of France's grand ecoles), a graduate of Sciences Po (another grand ecole), and he had formerly worked for a government minister.

Wow.  He sure picked the wrong audience.  While his school ties and membership in France's ultimate old boy network might have worked on the natives, it only impressed me by its irrelevance.  So chalk up one more difference in the cultural divide between the U.S. and France, now being exposed daily in press coverage of the Dominic Strauss Kahn affair.  Americans may think the fellow who graduated from Harvard is smart or they may hold him in contempt for being a useless egghead.  But buy a book of poetry on the strength of that association?  I don't think so.


Julie said...

Hand on heart, I love this blog. It is no exaggeration to say that your positive attitude has made my own moves seem less stressful and more 'interesting'.

Does that sound creepy? I love the blog, you as a person I know not from Adam. I respect your privacy as I cherish my own.

No, it is not shocking that you have these credentials. you 'demonstrate' your education level and background through your writing. Yes, implicit is much better than explicit 'I am educated you must respect me' crassness.

I can think of at least five French male bloggers who would fall into the description you provide. And I can think of two dozen men that I have actually met. He is representative of a type, unfortunately.

It is difficult to ignore that you will be returning to the states when the worlds attention is on not great things about some aspects of France. I am annoyed on your behalf! like that will help.

I will miss your dispatches. It is far more interesting to get an outsiders view of a country. I could mumble something about goldfish not being that great at describing water if I was going to be negative about some 'life in France' stuff.

Make the most of the rest of your time in Paris, I hope you have enjoyed it, I certainly have appreciated being able to read about it.

Mary Kay said...

I thought that presenting one's academic credentials was the "done thing" in Paris. I've never lived anywhere where people (American men and women) are so quick to tell you where they went to university. It's gotten to the point that I know that I should expect it during the first 10 minutes of a conversation. I have to laugh because I could actually care less where someone went to school 20-30 years ago. To me, it's more about what you're doing with your life today and if you're a worthwhile person. It really makes me wonder why Americans feel the need to flaunt their academic credentials in Paris...maybe we can blame it on the French. ;-)

Peter (the other) said...

The idea of an aristocracy is still very much a part of the social "DNA" of Europe, and it is a much more complex idea then solely financial condition. This curious anachronism (as France is a "Catholic" country but few regularly attend) evolved with the abolition of the monarchal distribution of power (which created aristocracy), and perhaps with respect for the power of knowledge was awarded to the church of academia to distribute. Like God himself, long held hopes for paternal figures who DO know what is going on is hard for us peoples to shake!

I do too, enjoy your position in this, but I also know many Americans who hold up the Ivies in the same superstitious way. But they are often people who have less academic experience.

Paulita said...

I agree with your points. A person's credentials would not make me pick up a book. Do you think pulling out the school credentials in France is similar to announcing career or job in the U.S.?

Starman said...

Forget his credentials, the really laughable thing here is that he wants you to write a review on a work you haven't seen. And he didn't even bother to send you a copy.

Anne said...

Thanks all for the comments. I did not expect many on this post but you readers always surprise me!

And thankfully none of you felt compelled to tell me where you went to school!

Amy said...

It's all over. I once went to an American Harp Society conference hoping to meet some friends and make contacts, but the first question out of EVERY SINGLE harpist's mouth was, "Who was your teacher." And when I said I was self-taught, I was totally ignored. I was just as good and perhaps even more musical than some of the ones with acclaimed teachers, but it made no difference. (No, I didn't share my credentials or my grade point average)

These days, I hang around with other musicians intent on doing it their own way. I like it better that way.

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