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The Myth of American Meritocracy

Lately I have had a bit of waiting time and I was able to read this article in full. Of the entire piece I found the passage below the most disturbing. As a history buff I am familiar with such behaviour in the old Soviet Union and Germany in the 1930’s where admission to schools and advancement within academia was based upon ethnic/religious distinctions.

Asian-Americans as the “New Jews”

The overwhelming focus of Karabel’s book is on changes in Jewish undergraduate percentages at each university, and this is probably less due to his own ethnic heritage than because the data provides an extremely simple means of charting the ebb and flow of admissions policy: Jews were a high-performing group, whose numbers could only be restricted by major deviations from an objective meritocratic standard.

Obviously, anti-Jewish discrimination in admissions no longer exists at any of these institutions, but a roughly analogous situation may be found with a group whom Golden and others have sometimes labeled “The New Jews,” namely Asian-Americans. Since their strong academic performance is coupled with relatively little political power, they would be obvious candidates for discrimination in the harsh realpolitik of university admissions as documented by Karabel, and indeed he briefly raises the possibility of an anti-Asian admissions bias, before concluding that the elite universities are apparently correct in denying that it exists.16

There certainly does seem considerable anecdotal evidence that many Asians perceive their chances of elite admission as being drastically reduced by their racial origins.17 For example, our national newspapers have revealed that students of part-Asian background have regularly attempted to conceal the non-white side of their ancestry when applying to Harvard and other elite universities out of concern it would greatly reduce their chances of admission.18 Indeed, widespread perceptions of racial discrimination are almost certainly the primary factor behind the huge growth in the number of students refusing to reveal their racial background at top universities, with the percentage of Harvard students classified as “race unknown” having risen from almost nothing to a regular 5–15 percent of all undergraduates over the last twenty years, with similar levels reached at other elite schools.

Such fears that checking the “Asian” box on an admissions application may lead to rejection are hardly unreasonable, given that studies have documented a large gap between the average test scores of whites and Asians successfully admitted to elite universities. Princeton sociologist Thomas J. Espenshade and his colleagues have demonstrated that among undergraduates at highly selective schools such as the Ivy League, white students have mean scores 310 points higher on the 1600 SAT scale than their black classmates, but Asian students average 140 points above whites.19 The former gap is an automatic consequence of officially acknowledged affirmative action policies, while the latter appears somewhat mysterious.

Full article here – The American Conservative

On face value I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the article or other bloggers who are interested in this same topic.

It is an appalling blight.

 

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