The John Connolly Education Paradox

The mayoral candidate—who's made education a key issue in his campaign—isn't exactly shouting his Harvard background from the rooftops.

Over the last couple years, it’s been mystifying how Harvard has all but become a dirty word in politics. During his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney, owner of two Harvard degrees, had a funny habit of bashing his old stomping grounds. And in his senate race against Elizabeth Professor Warren, Scott Brown did his best to make the place sound like an anti-Christ breeding ground (Brown, by the way, did not exactly slum it in college—he went to Tufts). At first it seemed like a Republican thing, but mayoral candidate John Connolly, who’s made education the centerpiece of his campaign—and the focus of a new ad that’s out today—virtually never brings up that he was educated inside Harvard’s ivy-covered walls.

It’s not like Connolly is out slamming his alma mater. He just doesn’t seem to bring it up much. Harvard gets only a passing reference in his official online bio and, last I heard it, doesn’t get any mention in his stump speech. Connolly has built his entire campaign around public education, so you can see why he might not be so eager to talk about having gone to high school at Roxbury Latin, one of the area’s most prestigious private schools, known for its direct and exclusive pipeline to Harvard Yard. But why no love for the Crimson? The best guess is that Connolly simply figured, like many politicians before him, that there’s too much risk in sounding like an elitist snob. Better to come off as a man of the people. After all, don’t we all know that guy—usually a product of Harvard, Princeton, or Yale—who just won’t stop talking about where he went to school? You can see how a politician would not want to be that guy.

But that all seems pretty silly. Obviously, you’re probably pretty smart if you went to Harvard. Shouldn’t that be a credential to be proud of? But for now at least, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, it looks like it’s still safer to avoid too many mentions. In the meantime, maybe Connolly should just tell people he went to school in Boston … well not Boston, but nearby … No, not Tufts!