Dropping the H-Bomb

The Boston Globe has a funny story today about an underappreciated problem that has caused untold human misery: the difficulty Harvard graduates have in telling people where they went to school. As the article points out, most grads don’t want to use the “H-bomb.”

When confronted with questions about their education, many elect simply for a kind of dodge, the most famous being the Boston method. “I went to school in Boston.’’ Sometimes it’s “near Boston.’’ Or perhaps even “Cambridge.’’

That almost never works.

The problem is that this bit of information about you has a high probability of distorting people’s impressions of you, typically not in a good way. So you try to avoid providing the information if you possibly can.

(My wife, who has the milk of human kindness by the quart in every vein, as Henry Higgins would say, has absolutely no sympathy for the plight of the poor Harvard grad, by the way.  Nor does she spend her time worrying about beautiful women who complain that no one takes them seriously because they’re so beautiful and all.)

I’ve been lucky that I’ve lived my life in the Boston area, where graduating from Harvard is less of a big deal.  I’ve also worked at companies that employ people who are typically smarter and better educated than I am.  I recall once having to provide a short bio for a journal paper a group of us wrote about a project we had worked on.  When I read the bios of the other four people, it turned out that I had the least education of any of them, and the second fewest number of Harvard degrees.  The other folks on the project were very nice to me, however, and never brought this up.

There’s something to be said for being a regular schmoe.

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