By the late 1960s, a Time magazine essayist pondered whether this process meant that what we knew as Yankee culture was more learned than inherited. “Ultimately,” the essayist noted, “Waspism may be more a state of mind, a pattern of behavior, than a rigid ethnic type.” The article went on to note that in that decade, it was a member of an Irish Catholic dynasty, John F. Kennedy, who added new luster to WASP ideals — complete with his dry humor, laconic eloquence, Boston accent and Ivy League education.
It’s been noted that Kagan’s confirmation would give Ivy League law schools complete hegemony over the Supreme Court. That only proves the point. The new lineup of justices would be ethnically and religiously non-WASP, but they — like President Obama — all would have been trained in the very New England institutions that were established to spread Yankee learning.
And, let’s face it, students don’t just strive to attend Harvard and Yale for their educational excellence. There is also the matter of absorbing those universities’ sense of authority, legitimacy and historical legacy that leads back to their Yankee founders.