Sunday, November 06, 2005

'The Chosen': Getting In

Some VERY interesting data and conclusions in Brooks's review of The Chosen (

One place where Karabel excels, however, is in his understanding that today's admissions policies have created their own set of problems. As time goes by, it becomes more and more clear that the meritocrats are doing exactly what the WASPS did, rigging admissions criteria to favor the qualities they and their children are most likely to possess.

In 1952, more than 37 percent of Harvard freshmen had fathers who had not attended college. By 1996, less than 11 percent did. In 1954, 10 percent of Harvard freshmen had fathers who worked at blue-collar jobs. Forty-two years later, only 5 percent did.

In 1996, only about 3 percent of the American labor force was in one of the highly credentialed professional occupations (doctor, lawyer, professor), but nearly a third of Harvard freshmen that year were children of such professionals.

The main beneficiaries of the new admissions policies, Karabel notes, were "the children of families that, while lacking the wealth of the old upper class, were richly endowed with cultural capital." In 1956, the sons of business executives outnumbered the sons of professors by four to one at Harvard. By 1976, there were nearly as many freshmen from academic households as from business households.

All of which suggests that human nature hasn't changed. People who possess privileges try to protect their own, even if they do shop at Whole Foods and drive Volvos.

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