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The Country Where Merit is Run Down, Part III: The Asians Strike Back

With–what else?–a lawsuit, with complaints to the Federal government to boot:

Getting into Harvard is tough enough: Every year come the stories about applicants who built toilets in developing countries, performed groundbreaking lunar research, or won national fencing competitions, whatever it takes to edge out the competition. So you can imagine that the 52-year-old Florida businessman and author Yukong Zhao is incensed that gaining admission may be even harder for his children—because of their race.

“It’s not a political issue,” he says. “It’s a civil-rights issue.”

Mr. Zhao helped organize 64 groups that last month asked the Education Department to investigate Harvard University for discriminating against Asian-Americans in admissions. The allegation is that Harvard is holding Asian-Americans to higher standards to keep them from growing as a percentage of the student body. The complaint, filed also with the Justice Department, follows a lawsuit against the university last fall by the nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions.

I’ve been duly taken to task over the issue of merit in Ivy League admissions, but as you can see others aren’t happy about the situation.  In a loudmouth culture Asians aren’t much to rock the boat, but enough is enough, and frankly I’m glad to see they’re taking action.

There are a couple of other issues here.

The first is the current tendency of American elites to create a “mandarinate”, i.e. a country where advancement is based on a certain educational background which gains entry to a cursus honorum to the top.  The Chinese in particular understand mandarinate completely: they invented it through their examination system for the bureaucracy, which was in place until the end of the Ching Dynasty in 1911.  (And they made fun of it too, as Wu Ching-Tzu did in The Scholars).  In that sense our elites are hoisted by their own petard.  At one time getting ahead in this country wasn’t so tied to your educational background; changing that has had unintended consequences.

The second is that those STEM people are making things “complicated”:

Mr. Zhao runs through other stereotypes that he says are used against Asian-Americans, such as their strength in science, technology, engineering or math. “Right now we have huge gaps in STEM education, and actually in this area a lot of Asian-American kids perform really well. But when they apply to elite colleges, their strength becomes a weakness.” He notes that Albert Einstein was a quiet, violin-playing math whiz: “Einstein would not be admitted to Harvard today.” Unless the violin added to his holistic appeal.

Maybe not…yesterday I attended the first day of my wife’s state music teacher’s convention, which consists of the elementary and junior high piano competitions.  The state winners were almost all Asian.  So we were talking to one of the winners’ families.  Her dad is a structural engineer.

It just never ends…



2 Replies to “The Country Where Merit is Run Down, Part III: The Asians Strike Back”

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