With Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court, the vaunted nine are set to be the most diverse group in the court's history.
Except for one thing. In terms of educational background, the justices are, well, birds of a feather. An Ivy League feather. To illustrate: Should Kagan secure her spot on the bench, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be the only justice to have graduated from somewhere other than Harvard or Yale for law school. She got her degree from Columbia -- but only after transferring there from Harvard.
In terms of undergraduate degrees, there's a similar pittance of scholastic diversity. Clarence Thomas went to Holy Cross College and ever-radical Ginsburg studied at Cornell. Antonin Scalia graduated from Georgetown; Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy went to Stanford. If appointed, Kagan will be the third consecutive justice to have earned a bachelor's at Princeton. The outgoing John Paul Stevens is the only outlier, with an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Northwestern.
It's difficult to argue that all this Ivy League homogeneity is a bad thing. Of course we want our justices to be of the most intellectual breed, to have been to through the most intense academic experiences to prepare them to grapple with the issues of the day. But as more and more students know, an education at an elite university isn't always worth the price tag. The same learning experience can often be obtained at a place of lesser reputation and cost when tackled by a truly savvy student.
And perhaps it's the people who forgo the ivory tower and know how to navigate and triumph over vast educational bureaucracy who should be running our nation's courts. After all, what better preparation could there be?
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