Monday, June 09, 2003

When did the old-boys network leave? 

One that snuck by me last week after reading Jeffery Rosen's defense of affirmative action in admissions: Jonah Goldberg reminds us that diversity didn't replace the old-boy network but rather the meritocratic impulses of the 1950s and 1960s. Money quote:
Nobody can reasonably dispute that there was an old boy network which discriminated not only against Jews, blacks, and what few Asians there were around � and, of course, against women � but against middle-class ethnic whites as well. What people forget is that the SAT and a host of other measures were created in the 1950s and 1960s in order to dismantle the old boy network, to give the poor and socially disadvantaged a chance to compete with the sons and daughters of privilege. And it was remarkably successful on that score. America's elite colleges and universities became vastly more integrated � ideologically, socially, and racially � because America made the decision to live up to the meritocratic ideal (the marketplace and the G.I. bill probably had a lot to do with it, too). The average IQ at elite U.S. schools soared as the duller children of privilege were forced to compete with middle-class Jews, Catholics, and blacks in ways they never had before. But there were costs. Higher education became much more of a national job-training program and less of an incubator of virtue and good citizenship. Local communities lost some of their best and brightest to the big cities because, for the first time, their best and brightest had an opportunity to compete there on a fair level. And, yes, the self-esteem of some groups suffered as fair chances failed to yield "fair" results.

And just as the meritocracy had costs, so does diversity. In fact, it would have costs even if minority applicants had identical academic records and SAT scores indistinguishable from the general pool of students because the concept of proportional representation is ultimately arbitrary when set against the riot of desires, aspirations, abilities, and attitudes of the college-bound population.

Read the whole thing. {Hat tip: Cold Spring Shops.}