February 1, 2005

Whose Side Are You On?

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I probably don’t have to tell you that things are going pretty well for Donald Trump: The third season of his job interview drama The Apprentice is up and running, and last weekend he married his arm candy, Melania Knauss, and spent his hard-earned cash on what was without a doubt the flashiest — I mean classiest — wedding of the year. What makes season three of The Apprentice one to watch is its face-off between “Book Smarts” (contestants with a college education) and “Street Smarts” (contestants with only high school diplomas). Also entering the workforce this season are socialites and quasi-celebs Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in the third season of their show The Simple Life: Interns. That’s right, this time they are on our turf.

As I write this column, countless juniors and seniors are on their own job hunts, whether for summer internships or permanent cubicles in corporate America. By pitting college and non-college educated contestants against each other, The Apprentice has opened up a wound that we can all relate to: what is this college education all worth if it doesn’t get us a job? Unlike the previous two seasons of The Apprentice, this season’s contestants have been split up into their groups for the show’s entirety. The college educated team has appropriately named themselves “Magna” (as in Magna Cum Laude) and will take on the non-college educated team “Net Worth.” If the last two seasons tell us anything it is that the Donald prefers young college educated men with names like Bill and Kelly, but only time will tell who will win Mr. Trump’s heart in season three.

As for his new Trump wannabes, so far, two contestants have been booted off the proverbial island. The first, Todd, heard “You’re fired!” after moving too slow as the leader of a fast food chain. The second loser was Brian, a Net Worth team member who was fired without even a second round in the boardroom (that’s Apprentice-talk for “you suck.”)

The third season of The Simple Life pits Paris and Nicole against the harsh working world of the Northeast as interns. Surprise, surprise, Paris and Nicole are not the ideal candidates for, well, any job in the job market, considering they don’t work, and don’t intend to — ever. At their first internship, a car mechanic shop, the two complained about the polyester suits they were given to wear, and then stole a police car for an emergency nail polish run. While interning at a hip ad agency, where you would think they might fit in, Paris and Nicole nixed sorting mail and pigged out on lunch meant for the employees. The two did manage to impress the bosses by scamming a table at a booked-till-forever restaurant by offering sexual favors, after which they made a little extra cash by charging unsuspecting Staten Islanders for a chance to get a beatdown, jujitsu style, a skill they learned from their gracious host, an Italian Staten Island jujitsu teacher (who knew!?). Later they dropped $50,000 dollars in a shopping spree, so it balances out. Luckily, these two won’t be in an office near you anytime soon.

As college students, it’s pretty obvious who we should all be rooting for to pull it out in the boardroom on The Apprentice. Every time you doubt whether it is really worth it to sit in bio lab or office hours, let’s face it, every time you pull back from the gorge and decide to jump back in — to your classes — (what else did you think I was talking about?) you are putting your bet on college.

Why then, is the “Book Smart” team villainized for being formally educated? What exactly is wrong with having a college education, or worse, having one from an Ivy League university? Apparently, there is something we have in common with Nicole and Paris: the American public loves to hate us. If season three of The Apprentice and The Simple Life can tell us anything, it would be that to the television watching public, having a diploma and proudly displaying it is just as bad as Paris Hilton’s parading around in the latest and most expensive designer clothing.

It is important to not let ourselves off too easy, but there needn’t be a divide between those with “Book Smarts” and “Street Smarts.” Those who would be proud to be called Ivy League snobs should be chastised because they give the rest of us a bad name (ahem, Harvard). The fact is, what we’re doing here is worth it, if only because we need to believe it. And God help us if the “Street Smarts” team takes home the gold.

Archived article by Logan Bromer