college admissions has, does, and will always serve only the institutions and their incredible greed
> You understand that what Harvard and its feckless peers would like is to admit fewer students whose Korean parents clear $40,000 a year from their convenience stores, right?
THANK YOU for spelling this out. The entire post was cathartic. (And thanks for an extra weekend post! They are always an unexpected treat.)
I don’t know if my Asian kid will be interested in schools like Harvard one day. I certainly don’t plan to encourage it (state school worked out fine for me). But I’m sick of these elite institutions doing everything they can to reduce the number of Asian students while dressing it up as social justice. The hypocrisy is nauseating.
Fuck yes. This channels my absolute rage over this issue better than any ironically detached “it’s wrong to ditch the SATs but my kid is still going to get into Harvard” Matt Yglesias post ever could.
The thing that makes me angriest is how much shittier this makes kids’ lives. They already had to do bizarre shit like start their own non profit institutions for their college resumes and now the last vestige of a chance for just a regular old smart poor or working class kid to stand out as genuinely remarkable in intellect and potential is gone. It’s all slavish devotion to not just grades, but wildly expensive extracurriculars, “volunteer” work, special projects that their parents can fund, and of course the essay contest which is the easiest thing in the world to game. And these things make teenagers lives MISERABLE and narrow. To be honest, I don’t give a shit what Harvard does but it enrages me that the UC system did this.
I'm glad you got that off your chest, and I agree with every last word.
My wife has had a long career working at community colleges. The CC's accept everyone who applies. That, to me, represents something really good about education in the U.S.
To borrow your colorful metaphor, Fuck Harvard.
This kind of fire and brimstone is what I pay for.
I feel like I just got out of the moshpit at a Slipknot concert after reading this. I'm ready to storm the ramparts and tear shit down. I like my music angry and evidently my essays angry as well.
As a 39-year STEM professor at a large state school, I agree with everything Freddie says about the SAT.
I grew up in a small town in Ohio to working class parents (no college). I was planning to study engineering (so I could get a job) at the University of Akron. Through a series of fortunate events too complicated to explain, I also applied to the engineering school at Cornell. Those were my only two college applications. I got in to Cornell.
Why? Very likely because I had a perfect math SAT score and something like a 95 percentile verbal score.
Could I have gotten in without that? My near-perfect grades from my small high school with ~100 students per grade, about 10 of whom went to college in any given year, which had never sent a kid to an Ivy in its ~150 year history, and which offered no AP or similar classes, would likely not have been enough.
Cornell gave me enough scholarship money to be able to go. I did. It totally changed my life.
Suddenly I was surrounded by smart, interesting, curious, wonderful, fascinating people. OK, half of them were from Long Island, but man, was it ever an awesome experience. I went on to get a PhD from Stanford and hold a postdoctoral position at Princeton. They were equally wonderful and amazing places filled with the most brilliant people imaginable.
I totally love the Ivies (and equivalent high level schools). IMO, they are the crown jewels of American civilization. To give just one example, the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is hands-down the best astrophysics research facility in the world. (Though the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garchang, Germany, might beg to differ.)
I am reminded of something physicist Robert Wilson said before Congress about the proposal to build the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL) outside Chicago in the 1960s. He was asked if FNAL would contribute to the national defense. He said, "It will be one of those things that makes the nation worth defending."
And another thing, Mr. Communist: talk to anyone who was part of the Soviet educational system pre-1989. The kids of Party bosses all got in. It was at least as nepotistic as the Ivies.
The Ivies actually do give kids like me a shot. I love them, and always will.
As someone who’s been somewhat forced to teach ACT/SAT prep to high schoolers, it’s just plain true that the best way to do well on the language section of these tests is to be an awesome, fluent reader by reading an absolute shitton of books for 12 years before taking the test. It’s what I did, and got a perfect score on the language section of both tests without any test prep. Now, did it help that my parents spoke with a high level of vocabulary and used complex syntax, that both of them had masters degrees? Sure. But I have met kids whose parents didn’t finish high school who just love reading, and who got great SAT scores but have mediocre GPAs because their high school classes are boring and below their reading level, and those kids should be able to go to the flagship state school college for free, and if state schools start doing what Harvard does because it’s Harvard (like the California system) then we should really be ashamed of ourselves.
Pretty much the tone I adapt when anyone gives me shit about my alma mater, Stuyvesant H.S., and the paucity of African-Americans in incoming classes. Basically, just listening to lectures from people who never went to Stuyvesant and how somehow the admissions process is so fucked up, when Stuyvesant is not the problem in NYC; clearly the issue is inequality in K-8 that becomes manifest in the NYC HS testing system.
Basically, the Clueless Do Gooders would like to eliminate testing as the entry requirement for very successful NYC public HS. . . a school that--ironically-- requires testing almost every day during the school year. How will that work out for those who can't take tests?
All of these initiatives are so blatantly racist against Asians that they barely bother disguising it, probably because Asian Americans are a small, ethnically and linguistically diverse census category that don’t invest heavily in lobbying the democratic party directly and thus aren’t intertwined with the party machinery enough for elected officials or talking heads to be incentivized to care about anti-Asian racism.
I went to an elite public magnet STEM high school that regularly had freshman classes that were anywhere from 60-70% Asian. The admissions process relied heavily on standardized testing, as well as essay writing and evaluating resumes for STEM and musical extracurricular activities.
Shortly after George Floyd was murdered and the subsequent riots, it was decided that the school was insufficiently diverse. The standardized test, in particular was singled out for producing racist results, and was immediately scrapped, along with other elements of the admissions process, to be replaced with a lottery system with a minimum GPA, which is aimed at producing a more representatively diverse freshman class.
Great rant, Freddie. Too bad for those hard-working Asian kids if their parents ain't got the dough. Not racist AT ALL. Thanks Harvard for policing our aristocracy!
Maybe it's the whiskey talking, but... while I am vastly too socially awkward and generally autistic to do it, I have this recurring fantasy of becoming a politician. Then swearing, in fluent woke-ese to attack the driving engines of White Supremacy and injustice and anti-egalitarianism and so forth... before pointing straight at Harvard, Yale, et cetera.
Would it work? ...probably not. I would be a shit politician, and I know it well enough to stick to programming, playing D&D, and throwing things at AIs to see what happens. And if I were somehow able to become a semi-respected politician, I guess I wouldn't be willing to gamble it all away on one epic flare of trolling. But if one attempts to apply Woke Logic with any inner consistency and good faith? (Which never happens, by the by.) Then I say, the case for "Harvard is inherently and irredeemably White Supremacist" is stronger than the case for "the United States of America is inherently and irredeemably White Supremacist".
not only funny but brilliant and totally cuts to the point. The powerful will NEVER support the common people. Ever. Places like Harvard will NEVER support the common people. The 1960s were a time when power to the people did in fact have a real impact. Did it last. No. Why? Because the powerful and rich looked at everything that happened and figured out how to short circuit it ever happening again. And the one major thing they did was to make sure that the common people who went to college would be forced into indentured servitude to do so. Why do you think that one of the few things you can't get out of through bankruptcy is student loans? The last thing they need is a bunch of liberally educated young people who have time on their hands to make their lives miserable. So, yeah, Harvard sucks but more than that it is evil in the true sense of the word. It is NOT a democratic institution, it will never be. The only way to win the game is not to play. So . . . instead of Harvard get the cheapest degree you can, start with community college and then go to the cheapest 4 year college for the last two years. Then find the cheapest Ph.D. program in the country if you want to go that far and get your degree there. No one cares where a degree comes from except the rich and powerful. But just remember that no matter where you go to college, whether you get a Ph.D. or not, most graduates now are stuck as adjunct teachers, or as gig workers, or can find no job at all. The game is not worth the candle. Period.
Core point: " You can’t make Harvard 'fair!' You can’t make it 'equal!' Thinking otherwise is absolutely bonkers to me. Harvard exists to make sure our society is not equal. That is Harvard’s function."
Regardless of the degree to which admissions is corrupt... I mean, that's actually kind of a secondary problem, right? Harvard's admissions committee could be a cabal of pure-hearted monks dedicated to finding only the very best and smartest and kindest and prettiest students in the world. It could be a computer that ONLY looks at SAT scores. It wouldn't change the fact that the function of elite universities in our society is to award credentialing that provides (a significant boost to) access to wealth, power, influence, professional attainment, and so on. I suppose you could argue that isn't even always a bad thing -- why should society be entirely equal? and Harvard is somewhat more meritocratic that pure aristocracy -- but social stratification is indeed the end result and primary function. (They also fund some research, I believe.)
Magnificent, accurate, dead on bull’s eye rant. Thx.
Very good. This post has converted me to a paying subscriber.
Honest to goodness, I think 99.9% of people in the U.S. never give Harvard a single thought. We know it's where rich people go, but it's kind of like Saint-Tropez or Vichyssoise. Each state has a land-grant university, and as Hubert Horatio Humphrey used to say, "we are pleased as punch" about that. (HHH a grad. of University of Minnesota).