It tested “extremely well” with certain audience segments

Friday, March 22nd, 2024

Troubled by Rob Henderson As he browsed various online forums trying to learn about college, Rob Henderson came across a book published in 1983 with an intriguing title: Class: A Guide Through the American Status System by Paul Fussell:

The book claimed that the criteria we use to define the tiers of the social hierarchy are in fact indicative of our own social class. For people near the bottom, Fussell wrote, social class is defined by money — in this regard, I was right in line with my peers when I was growing up. We thought a lot about money. The middle class, though, believes class is not just about the size of one’s pocketbook; equally important is education. The upper class has some additional beliefs about class, which I would later come to learn.


Kyle arranged for me to stay with his law-school friend the night before the [two-week Warrior-Scholar] program [at Yale] began. When I arrived at Michael’s residence in New Haven, he introduced me to his cat.

“His name is Learned Claw,” Michael said. “We named him after the legal scholar and judge Learned Hand.”

I’d never heard of this judge before. My mind jumped to Paul Fussell’s book about social class. He wrote that upper-middle-class people often give their cats names like Clytemnestra or Spinoza to show off their classical education. I was glad I’d read that book. Even though I didn’t know who Learned Hand was, at least now I knew that he was someone a person with a classical education should know about. I kneeled down to pet the cat, making a mental note to look the judge up later.

Billings Learned Hand had, at least as of 2004, been quoted more often by legal scholars and by the Supreme Court of the United States than any other lower-court judge.

Henderson befriended one of the tutors, a recent Yale graduate:

One evening, I saw him watching something on his MacBook. He told me it was The West Wing and insisted that I watch it. I had never seen this show, nor did anyone I know watch it. But when another tutor overheard him recommend The West Wing to me, she nodded vigorously, saying I had to watch it. I made a mental note to check it out once I finished the program.


As I worked my way through the first season, I had an uncomfortable realization: The West Wing is not very good.


The show had the pacing of a ’90s TV drama, and the way the characters spoke seemed strange to me (I’ve since grown to enjoy “Sorkinese”; Molly’s Game was one of my favorite movies of 2017).


In fact, West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin explained in an interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks that the pilot episode generally wasn’t well received. But, according to Sorkin, it tested “extremely well” with certain audience segments: households that earned more than $75,000 a year, households where there was someone with a college degree, and households that subscribed to the New York Times.

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