In the seventies, the English department at Grinnell was home to at least two future New York movers-and-shakers: John Chambers, the chairman of the S&P's sovereign debt committee (i.e., the guy who downgraded the U.S.'s credit rating), and Sam Tanenhaus, who edits The New York Times Book Review. It's been a rough week for Chambers, who has been blamed by Paul Krugman, among others, for exercising poor judgement in the matter. Tanenhaus took to the pages of Slate to defend his old pal — not on his financial acuity, mind you, but on his merits as an English major.
John has told me the most important thing Grinnell taught him was how to write a well-argued paper. He learned his lesson well. The S&P report, whatever one thinks of its conclusions, is a model of clarity.
We'll trust his textual analysis. Tanenhaus, however, does not mention the $2 trillion error that was also in the report, which (speaking as a proud former English major) is also perhaps not unrelated to Chambers's major.