A New Yorker cartoon by Barbara Smaller, owned by Conde Nast
Halfway through this interview with Salon, critic of the Ivy League (and Ivy-League critic) Michael Deresiewicz discusses the way that our ostensibly meritocratic college admissions system serves to “launder privilege”:
Instead of saying, “You get to go because you’re born,” which is obviously unfair, we say, “You get to go because you have really great scores and grades and you’ve done a million extracurricular activities.” But the only way to get to that point is if you have rich parents. I mean, again, there are exceptions, but there are not a lot of exceptions.
Approximately 35,000 kids apply to Harvard each year, and 2,000 get in. When I was an SAT tutor, more kids submitted perfect scores to Yale than there were total admissions slots. As selective colleges become more selective, admissions become an arms race of adolescent achievement—one that demands more money than lower- and even middle-income families can afford. But we are invested in believing this system rewards merit, because the Ivies and so-called junior Ivies produce so many of our leaders.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, who also appears in your girlfriend's graduate program
Canny invoker Ross Douthat cannily invokes Pat Buchanan in his New York Times column from Monday, in which he suggests that Harvard and other Ivy League institutions discriminate against working class, rural and conservative whites. This position is, of course, extremely popular with white racists, which is why Douthat chooses to open his column with something Buchanan did in 2000. When the former Nixon speechwriter spoke at Harvard in March of that year, he was greeted with jeers, accusations of bigotry, and pretty much every other expression of anger you can carry off in a pink polo shirt. Buchanan’s claim that contemporary America persecutes white Christians is laughable, but Douthat observes that it’s the same note currently sounded by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and other vital elements of contemporary conservatism. One of those elements turns out to be Douthat himself, who gives us this third paragraph:
To liberals, these grievances seem at once noxious and ridiculous. (Is there any group with less to complain about, they often wonder, than white Christian Americans?) But to understand the country’s present polarization, it’s worth recognizing what Pat Buchanan got right.
And thus does an old myth smear itself with lipstick before trying on its new dress.