A graduate of an Ivy League school himself, Barely A Blog contributor Myron Pauli (bio below) decries the idiots and the elites—categories which are by no means mutually exclusive—who rig top tertiary education these days.
Ivy League Education: Only Idiots and Elites Need Apply
By Myron Pauli
Imagine a “thought experiment” where a student has two choices:
CHOICE ONE: Attend Harvard University where famous obnoxious faculty big shots (Nobel Prizewinners and public celebrities) roam the campus and where you will be likely to dorm with children of CEO’s, cabinet officers, and third world dictators, dining out in the Cambridge milieu – and then you receive a diploma after 4 years that says “University of North Dakota,”
CHOICE TWO: Attend the University of North Dakota with friendly but completely ordinary professors and the 4-H club and ROTC students hanging out in the great cultural milieu of Grand Forks ND – and then you receive a diploma after 4 years that says “Harvard.”
In other words, which is better, the “Harvard education” or the “Harvard credential”? My mother who always said, “It’s not what you know, it’s whom you know” would definitely pick the latter. So would most people. In fact, the Harvard education is probably worth 1% of the value of the Harvard certificate. Such is the nature of the elite “meritocracy” of the United States where Ivy League graduates such as the Obamas are automatically heralded as “geniuses.” Conferring an Ivy League diploma on the local bowling alley attendant elevates that person into a sage of our modern era.
Naturally, affirmative action for blacks and Hispanics distorts the admissions process. While I was at MIT, a white from Brooklyn with one B and A in everything else, including advanced graduate work, was denied admissions to Stanford graduate school, while a black from East Orange NJ with C’s and D’s in lower level MIT courses was accepted. They both stayed at MIT with the former now a distinguished professor in his field, and the latter dropping out of graduate school – having had his time “wasted” by people bending over backwards on his behalf.
There are many other distortions and biases – some of the statistics and anecdotes can be found in the recent article “The Myth of American Meritocracy” in The American Conservative (TAC) which serve to point out the rather arbitrariness of the elite admissions (except for the completely test-related Caltech) of the elite colleges.
Not surprisingly, Asians, as a group, are discriminated against by the Ivy Leagues. They score 140 points above their white competitors and 450 points above their black competitors on the SAT’s (perhaps the Asians are not as good in football!). A more surprising find is that non-Jewish whites, formerly the backbone of the Ivy Leagues, appear to be at a disadvantage under the current admissions process. While they make up 88% of University of North Dakota, these “whities” are only good for 18% at Harvard. Even nerdy Caltech with 39% Asian has 33% non-Jewish whites. But they are currently not politically protected. The article referenced did not go into how many non-Jewish whites, who are neither alumni legacies nor ones with elite “connections,” get into Harvard, but it is likely a very low number.
Ironically, the TAC data indicates that Jews, who used to be discriminated against by the Ivies 90 years ago or so, currently seem to be overrepresented above and beyond their performance. Additionally, there are arguments that Jews have slipped educationally in the last few generations for a variety of reasons: disinterest in academics (why study physics when you can make money doing hedge funds?), and the demographic rise of the non-academic Orthodox Jewish component. Jews who dominated in science competitions 40 years ago seem to have been replaced by Asians. [Could it be that Jews are now fully acculturated to the American progressive educational ethos, where the goal is to ‘follow your dream and have fun’; a goal that almost always precludes hard work? Asian mothers are slower to respond to this fatuity, but it’s happening. I met one the other day.—IM]
Academic performance has been replaced with expert “gaming the system”. Why bother with nerdy grind-work when a well-connected guidance counselor and the correct extras can get you into the palace of Princeton?
If America of 1912 was dominated by a self-anointed “old-boy network” of White Protestant men – the America of 2012 is dominated by a self-anointed “PC network” which may look more diverse but is just as much of a self-chosen network.
The “best and brightest” is not merely a snobby social club, but also includes those who make decisions to get us into wars, deficits, and to take our freedoms away.
Barely a Blog (BAB) contributor Myron Pauli grew up in Sunnyside Queens, went off to college in Cleveland and then spent time in a mental institution in Cambridge MA (MIT) with Benjamin Netanyahu (did not know him), and others until he was released with the “hostages” and Jimmy Carter on January 20, 1981, having defended his dissertation in nuclear physics. Most of the time since, he has worked on infrared sensors, mainly at Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC. He was NOT named after Ron Paul but is distantly related to physicist Wolftgang Pauli; unfortunately, only the “good looks” were handed down and not the brains. He writes assorted song lyrics and essays reflecting his cynicism and classical liberalism. Click on the “BAB’s A List” category to access the Pauli archive.