09 October 2005

Oh, so that explains it

Malcom Gladwell’s latest article on elite-school admissions is well worth a read:

If you let in only the brilliant, then you produced
bookworms and bench scientists: you ended up as socially irrelevant as
the University of Chicago (an institution Harvard officials looked
upon and shuddered). “Above a reasonably good level of mental ability,
above that indicated by a 550-600 level of S.A.T. score,” Bender went
on, “the only thing that matters in terms of future impact on, or
contribution to, society is the degree of personal inner force an
individual has.”

In the nineteen-eighties, when Harvard was accused of
enforcing a secret quota on Asian admissions, its defense was that
once you adjusted for the preferences given to the children of alumni
and for the preferences given to athletes, Asians really weren’t being
discriminated against. But you could sense Harvard’s exasperation that
the issue was being raised at all. If Harvard had too many Asians, it
wouldn’t be Harvard, just as Harvard wouldn’t be Harvard with too many
Jews or pansies or parlor pinks or shy types or short people with big

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