Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Is the Game Rigged?

Much of what Lori Gottlieb says to Lisa the letter writer is sound, sane and sensible. She offers a set of instructions about how to navigate life’s hardships and injustices. She values resilience. She values making the best of a bad situation. All of which is well and good.

Unfortunately, Lisa’s problem has very little to do with how to deal with failing at a fair competition. The problem involves her twin sons. With the same stellar credentials, one boy is going to attend the Naval Academy. The other boy has been rejected from the Ivy League schools he wants to attend and resents the fact that the game seems to be rigged against him-- because he is white, male, and upper middle class.

Given that her boys are twins, Lisa has every reason to believe that while the Naval Academy values merit, the Ivy League today places diversity over merit. It's almost the perfect control experiment.

And we agree with Gottlieb that some students have unthinkingly bought into the Ivy League mystique. And we continue to believe that the market will deal with the problem.

By now, most people know that if you are going to hire from an Ivy League school you do well to stick to the STEM majors, because there the game is less likely to be rigged.

The letter was written two years ago. It references a time when affirmative action programs were de rigueur in the college admissions process. Nowadays, things have gotten worse, and diversity has become an end in itself.

Here is the letter:

My son is in the middle of the college-application process. He has very good grades and very good SAT and ACT scores; he is an Eagle Scout and a captain of the cross-country team. He is also white, male, and upper-middle-class—and that is the problem.

According to all of the statistics and reports, he should be accepted at Ivy League schools, but he has not been. He will eventually get into a “good” school, but it is my guess (based on what we are seeing with his peer group) that he will be overqualified for the school he ends up at.

He is very frustrated and very upset. How do you explain to a bright, eager boy that the system is rigged against him? For example, his twin brother, who has similar grades and an almost identical résumé, is going to the U.S. Naval Academy, and his application process, though difficult, was smooth and straightforward.


Lisa understands well that the game is rigged against her son. She might have added that the game is also rigged against Asian-American students. 

Gottlieb suggests that the game is not really rigged, but the courts are in the process of deciding whether it is acceptable to discriminate against white males because they are white males and whether it is acceptable to discriminate against Asian overachievers because they are Asian overachievers.

By the latest statistics, the point differential between a minority candidate and a white or Asian candidate at Ivy League schools is something like 400 SAT points, on a 1600 point scale. The inescapable conclusion is: different candidates are judged differently according to their race.

Gottlieb does not understand this and seems to suggest that the process is basically fair. If it were fair and if SAT scores produced the desired outcomes, Ivy League schools and several important state schools would not have decided to ignore them.

The short answer here is that diversity quotas breed resentment. The more pervasive the quotas, the more resentment. Giving some people preferences according to race means penalizing some people according to race.

The word fairness does not apply.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Diversity goals breed more than resentment; they breed distrust in the credentials of minorities who attend those colleges.