It's an article of interest to maybe 5% of the entire internet, but since I'm part of that 5%, I'll take the bait. Do I do this now? Of course not. But when I was 18 to 24 I did it plenty of times. If I was back home working a temp job for the summer or making small talk with a hairdresser or dental hygienist, then sure. I'd say I go to school "back east" or "in New England."
Anderson gives passing attention to the explanation that I'd have given for why I did this--that announcing your fancy-pants affiliation derails conversation, leads to awkwardness, and so forth--but she concludes that "it is not your job to anticipate and preemptively manage another person's emotional response to your biography. If you tell people you went to Harvard and they respond by freaking out, that reflects poorly on them." On the other hand, if you "withhold" the name of your college from someone else,
that reflects poorly on you--it implies that, on some level, you buy into the overblown mythos of Harvard and the presumption of Ivy League superiority. To fear the effects of the word "Harvard" is to take Harvard way too seriously. Once you understand that Harvard is just a college, and that getting into Harvard probably had more to do with your socioeconomic background and the luck of the draw. . . the cagey "college in Boston" response starts to sound very, very silly.
Now, if we're talking about recent college grads talking to other recent college grads--friends of friends at a party, new co-workers, whatever--and hiding the name of their alma mater, then I'd agree: it's douchey and patronizing to think that you're somehow protecting other people's self-esteem by not mentioning the name of a school you presume they didn't get into. But Anderson misunderstands the context in which most of this coyness occurs, or the kind of awkwardness that this evasiveness is meant to forestall. Most undergrads at fancy schools (like most PhDs) have had the experience of saying something neutral that mentions their educational background--only to receive some weird, sarcastic, and/or hostile response along the lines of, "Oooooh. Can I touch you?" or mock bows or genuflections. If that happens a few times (that is, if you get responses that assume you're bragging or are stuck-up just for answering a question truthfully) then you learn to avoid bringing it up if it's not strictly necessary.
Moreover, most people who are cagey about where they went to college know perfectly well that the rest of the world doesn't actually care where they went to school, even when it's asked as a direct question. Most people who ask the question are just making small talk and looking for a casual opportunity for connection. If all your aunt's friend from church really wants to know is whether you're an Oregon or Oregon State fan--or if you might have gone to the same school as her kid or her sister or her nephew--then saying you went to some far-away school with a fancy name changes the conversation she thought she were having.
Most of the time, when I said "back east," my interlocutors didn't ask "where?" They said, "oh wow, that's far." Or, "do you have family there, too?" Or "how do you like it? I hear it snows a lot." They were just making chit-chat, and I'd given them an answer that kept the conversation on that level. (And if they actually asked, "but what school?" I'd tell them.)
Reading Anderson's essay, though, made me realize that it's been a long time since I gave an evasive answer to a question about my educational background. Some of that is just pragmatic: I'm old enough that "where did you go to college?" is no longer the first (or second, or third) thing people ask. And I live in the East, and most of the people I meet are interested in higher education.
But most importantly: I'M A COLLEGE PROFESSOR. I HAVE A PH.D. If people are going to act weird about something in my educational history, it's my having a Ph.D. in English ("Oh, boy. So I guess I have to watch my grammar around you!")
Maybe the other thing that's changed is where I live and where I work. When someone in Cha-Cha City asks me what I do, and then asks me where I went to school, I'm pleased by both parts of the equation. I like my city and I like my job, and it's good for my neighbors to know that RU has highly-trained and well-credentialed faculty who are thrilled to be there. It reflects well on the community and the state university system. (And if they're the ones inclined to be snobbish--about where I teach, or about public colleges in general--then I'm happy enough to unsettle their presumptions.)