This is a fascinating review essay from the NY Times on the state of admissions and learning in elite academia in America. The article is a review of several recent books. Well worth a read. A few snippets follow.
This first poem which is quoted in the piece is hilarious. One thing I have always detested is rich, white liberals. This poem gets at the sense of what I resent in those type of views:
I'm sorry for what my people did to your people
It was a nasty job
Please note the change of attitude
On the bumper of my Saab
What he means is that the academic left (which he tartly calls the "supposed left") expends its energy rallying against such phantom enemies as racism and sexism—erstwhile evils that he believes barely exist today, at least not in the narrow social stratum from which college students come. As a result, "progressive politics" too often "consists of disapproving of bad things that happened a long time ago." But Michaels does not stop at chiding the "supposed left" for indulging in nostalgia for battles already won. He thinks that by obscuring the real issue —the class divide—that persists behind all the smoke and noise over "diversity," the academic left has become complicit with the broader political right in rewarding the rich and penalizing the poor.
It will be difficult to adjust this system toward greater sanity and equity. As a start, it would help to recognize that the history of college admissions is a stark illustration of the law of unintended consequences. Today's system of personal essays, interviews, and recommendations, meant to ensure a diversity of temperaments and interests as well as racial and ethnic origins among admitted students, was invented early in the twentieth century for precisely the opposite reason: to detect and limit applicants with undesirable traits, notably Jewishness. When the system of standardized testing was imposed a half-century ago it was originally intended to break the lock that children of privilege had on the elite colleges and to identify the best minds throughout the nation at a time when, to meet the Soviet threat, top American universities were transforming themselves from finishing schools for the rich into training schools for the bright. Today, that system of standardized testing has become a tool of the wealthy, who have many means—expensive schools, private SAT tutors—to inflate the test scores of their children.
More than half of the freshmen at selective colleges, public and private, come from the highest-earning quarter of households. Tell me the ZIP code and I'll tell you what kind of college a high-school graduate most likely attends.