Not Your Typical Admissions Letter



One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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239 Responses

  1. Avatar Will Truman says:

    The site’s not loading (I’m sure the link is fine, my connection has been goofy today), but I assume this references the WSJ piece. I have to confess, my initial response to it was a mocking “Oh, noes! She’s going to have to go to Temple!”

    And in a way, she appears to be exactly the sort of student that is, in my view, over-represented at the hallowed halls of the nation’s most elite schools. She’ll turn out fine, people like her usually do, so long as she doesn’t get consumed by bitterness.

    At the same time, though, these are important schools. And it doesn’t seem right to respond to someone who didn’t get in despite appearing to have done everything right with the amount of contempt that she has received in return. (This is influenced, at least somewhat, by reading her piece as having at least a bit of tongue in cheek.)

    And lastly, a writer for the CJR suggested that this piece may haunt her for years to come. Boys may refuse to date her. Employers may decline to employer her. I find it hard to believe that there’s not something wrong with that. This isn’t a drunk Facebook photo. This is a dissenting opinion on how much value schools place on diversity by a frustrated (albeit articulate) 17 year old girl.Report

  2. I think Kendra James is right on, but mean. This is a child we’re talking about. She’s just a product of her environment. Instead of attacking her personally, perhaps we should be asking ourselves, “What’s wrong with our culture that some of us feel so entitled to the best things?”Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Or, what does it say about our culture – or the upper crest of our culture – that that success is defined so narrowly?

      I swear, some people I talk to on the east coast take some some sort of “If you can’t get into the best school and have a high-status occupation, you might as well shrivel up and die.”

      Perhaps I quarterheartedly come to Weiss’s defense because I see her as a victim of this mentality.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        She’s from Pittsburgh. She is more Heartland than East Coast.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Still pretty eastern, from where I sit. Truthfully, what I was referring to applies to parts of the South as well. (The eastern part, not coincidentally.)Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            You have the typical Inter Mountain area bias.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              It’s easier to see things clearly when you’re up high like we are.

              (Seriously, as we look to relocate east, it’s startling how much the east runs together geographically. We’re going from a place that’s five hours from the nearest international airport to a place with more international airports in a five hour radius than I have been able to count. Holy cow!)Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Heck you could fit most of the eastern states in one big western state. States are just so small there.Report

              • Avatar dexter says:

                Heck, You could fit some eastern states in big western counties. Rhode Island is not as big as the distance from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                My county is twice the size of Delaware. Almost five times the size of RI.Report

              • Avatar Nathanael says:

                The difference within the US is nothing like the difference between the US and Europe. I repeatedly have to remind English people that the whole of the UK would fit inside upstate NY with room to spare, just to give them some perspective.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                From my perspective, “the South” starts wherever the Cracker Barrel:highway exit ratio rises above 0.1, which is somewhere in central Pennsylvania.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                This amusingly makes Utah part of the South. Which fits.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            If she were from Philadelphia, I would agree that she is East Coast.

            Pittsburgh is close to Ohio and also parts of Kentucky. It is not East Coast.

            It is not even on the Coast.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised if Ohio had a fair amount of this infliction. For some reason I actually thought she was from Philly (hence my reference to Temple). But I am not at all surprised the extent to which people from Pittsburgh (of a certain class) are similarly afflicted in a way that much fewer are where I’m from and where I am now.Report

          • Avatar Michelle says:

            Still pretty eastern, from where I sit. Truthfully, what I was referring to applies to parts of the South as well. (The eastern part, not coincidentally.

            There are little Suzys and their male equivalents everywhere these days, kids who grow up in sheltered suburban enclaves who think they’re entitled to get exactly what they want and, if they don’t, it’s because someone else deprived them of it. Little Suzy is a slicker version of Sarah Palin. She’s learned how to exploit that chip on her shoulder for her 15 minutes. I expect she’ll eventually run for office.Report

            • Avatar Gaelen says:

              The unvarnished entitlement of some (usually young and privileged) people can be shocking. One of my classmates in law school (who I actually really like outside these hissy fits) has challenged the grading of three final exams in a year and a half of school.

              It seems so similar to young Suzy’s mindset–They can’t seem to comprehend that the reward doesn’t always follow the work they have put in.Report

              • Heh. You have only one classmate who does that? When I went to medical school, I had dozens.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                One of the biggest surprises I had in college was the number of kids who simply didn’t turn in major assignments on time. A combination of growing up middle-class, having a mother as a teacher, and my hard wiring left me always operating under the assumption that deadlines were deadlines and missing them without approval would have consequences. But many of my classmates and friends would routinely say, “I have a paper due tomorrow but I’ll just hand it in next week and talk to the prof then.” This just boggled my mind. In my undergraduate career, there was one time where I asked for an extension, and it was for a pass-fail class during second semester of senior year.

                Graduate school was a bit different, but I feel that the playing field between profs and students is rightly more level there, as opposed to undergraduate where it is not but many students assume or treat it as it is.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I think most of my fellow students as undergrad turned in their assignments on time.

                However, in grad school the dean told me that sometimes student’s did not turn up for finals. I always took this as a sign of being art school.Report

              • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

                My law school had a policy that profs had zero authority to grant extensions of any sort. You want to get an extension? You have an excuse? You go before the board.Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                An excellent example of how sometimes it can be to your advantage to have a choice taken away from you.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen says:

                Wow. Your blowin my mind doc. For some reason I thought that was rare, or at least that calling in the dean to adjudicate a grading dispute was something done in only the most egregious situations.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                I used to work in an admin position in my alma mater’s faculty of engineering. We saw more students with grade disputes (they went to an assistant dean there) than ANY OTHER STUDENTS.

                It was kind of appalling.Report

              • Avatar Nathanael says:

                Guh. I’ve had situations where I wanted to get a professor fired for condoning and encouraging academic fraud by his other students. (Which would have the incidental effect of lowering all their grades relative to mine.)

                It doesn’t sound like you were seeing legitimate grading disputes. Another legitimate dispute would be “The professor gave me an assignment to do this. I did it. The professor gave me an F because he claims I did not, but the professor is ignoring the simple words of the assignment he gave…”

                Sounds to me like you were seeing people who were already getting Cs or Bs and wanted As. Am I right? Yuck.Report

            • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

              I grew up in a sheltered suburban environment and this type of attitude is still a jolt to me. My classmates were spoiled silly, but not in this particular way.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              I don’t know if I would go that far. But that could be she seems to be a Member of the Tribe. She is already also probably part of the elite that Sarah Palin decries. Is there any evidence to prove that Ms. Weiss is a Republican (besides being published in the WSJ, which is not really evidence):


              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Her sister Bari appears to be significantly to the right on Israel. Also, wrote a piece in the WSJ about those world dissidents who miss GWB and/or the issues they have with Obama.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I still wonder about the family dynamics and why they thought this would be a good thing for younger Weiss to do. Maybe Bari doesn’t like her younger sister very much?

                Or maybe they all thought (including Mom and Dad) that they were speaking on a great injustice.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              Never mind. I read the op-ed. That was rather self-indulgent.

              Her high school is in Squirrel Hill according to wiki. Squirrel Hill is traditionally known as the Jewish district of Pittsburgh.

              She should have known better.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              A friend from Pittsburgh informs me that that Taylor Allerdice is really the only good public high school in Pittsburgh and the only one with a decent graduate/college acceptance rate.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        I would argue that America has many cultures and that they don’t interact very well with each other.

        Perhaps you are right that too many people have a narrow definition of success. I would say that I grew up in the same culture as the young woman who wrote the WSJ article. My parent’s at least let me try for a career in art. Something you mentioned would have not even crossed your mind and your parents would dissent about as well. I think my parents would have accepted success in theatre even though it is not financial or even very elite.

        I also know a lot of people who were the first to attend college/university in their family. They got a lot of grief from their families for trying to improve their lot in life. A kind of “being a construction worker was good enough for me. Why can’t it be good enough for you?”Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Yeah, even within an area there is a fair amount of dissent. There are people where I’m from that look at the University of Tennessee as junk when there’s Vanderbilt over in Nashville. My mother (raised in the south, but eastern south) has a fascination with Duke. But even coming from the comfortable background where I do, the attitude I refer to is pretty alien to me. It seems a lot less alien in other places. I don’t think this is something that occurred in a vacuum, but it’s something I’ve definitely noticed.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            The whole college rivalry thing is interesting to me. This again is partially because I went to a Division III school. We competed in sports but I don’t remember us having any “rivals” like UNC and Duke are rivals.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              I don’t really understand it, either. I don’t feel a passionate need to “hate” another school. I don’t know why anybody does. It’s one of the aspects of fandom that eludes me (except insofar as I care more about it because others care about and so it becomes a self-fulfilling “big deal”). I mean, I sometimes do end up disliking some particular athletics opponent, but it’s as often as not related to something specific (their coach is an a-hole, we keep finding ourselves in contention for the conference title, etc.).Report

        • Avatar dhex says:

          “I also know a lot of people who were the first to attend college/university in their family. They got a lot of grief from their families for trying to improve their lot in life.”

          that’s definitely the opposite of my experience. some of my earliest memories (5, 6 years old) were being told that i would be the first in my family to go to college.Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      I don’t think it’s mean to attack her personally, at least not in the comparatively gentle way that James does (the worst thing she says is that Ms. Weiss whines too much to survive rigorous parental expectations). I think it’s quite possible that Ms. Weiss will, when she is 30, think well of Ms. James for having been straight with her. I have heard from some of our alums that the most helpful thing that happened to them *in their entire college career* was being told off by someone for their assumptions that they should get everything they wanted every time they wanted it.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        It was a rather pointed about “white girls” (which is sort of moving into problematic territory, to be honest).Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          The gendered nature of it stood out to me, but I could explain it away via one of two paths…

          1.) All the examples cited were from white females.
          2.) White females are arguably more privileged in college admissions than white males, meaning they are at the top of the totem.Report

          • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

            My issue is more along the lines that my wife is a “white girl” and she responded more unfavorably to the piece than I did. As did a lot of her college classmates when it came up on Facebook. Discussing “white girls” so broadly and negatively left a bad taste in my mouth.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              I think that’s fair. Like so many pieces, it would have benefited from the word “Some…” or phrase “This group of…” before “…white girls”. But I don’t think it takes away from the broader point.Report

        • Avatar Maribou says:

          I think the reason it was so pointed about white girls is that most of the complaints Ms. James was responding to have been complaining about having lost out due to *being* white girls. “It’s not FAIR that I’m not seen as diverse!” complaints. Given that they already set up the context, it seems to me that she was responding in that same context, and I didn’t feel personally attacked at all.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            The framing of the issue that “this is how white girls are” or “white girls are like this” just rubbed me the wrong way. Not just the reference to “white girls” but defining a group, essentially, by a negative trait exhibited by some conspicuous examples. That was how I read it, anyway.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              But I remember rolling my eyes and saying something about that being some “white people’s foolishness,” to my friends, because who does that?

              Over the past few months the answer has become clear: White Girls Do That.

              In defense of white girls, some of my best friends are white girls, and one of them isn’t like that. Maybe two.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              “Not just the reference to “white girls” but defining a group, essentially, by a negative trait exhibited by some conspicuous examples.”

              Which is sort of what we do with people of color / ethnic minorities / religious minorities / LGBTQ folks / women / etc…

              It doesn’t make it right… two wrongs and rights and all that… but all the white women (and men) out there bothered by such broad brush stroking would be well-served to use this scenario to better understand the regular experiences of those less privileged than them.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Which I think makes for an interesting conversation, though one that detracts from the points James was attempting to make.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I wanted to mention that I appreciate your approach to this. When some less unprivileged group is argued to have gotten a raw deal, it’s a great opportunity to say “You’re right, that’s not fair” or (if you think they are imagining it) “I don’t see it, but you may be right”…. followed by pointing out that this is something that a lot of other groups have to endure to a greater extent.

                I frequently take issue with how the south is often depicted in popular media. It is actually through this, and my attempts to talk about it, that I came to more fully appreciate the complaints of groups that get even worse representation. (When someone says “Oh yeah? What about CMT?” I come to understand why BET and TBS are not sufficient for black people who want to see more and better depictions of their culture on television. And the inability of others to notice what I am talking about has helped me see the things I had been missing with other groups.)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                A few thoughts…

                First and foremost, TBS is seen as a “black channel”? Interesting. I don’t watch a ton of it… I guess some of the Tyler Perry shows are on there? Interesting. I’ve always heard people say, “What about BET?” but never, “What about TBS?” Huh. Not really important. Just stood out to me.

                More importantly, your first paragraph is why I struggle with the “white people problems” meme. While I have employed it myself, too often it is employed in a situation where just that type of learning could happen. It is dismissive… and no doubt some of the complaints that get labeled as such should be ultimately dismissed… but if we want people to better understand one another, snarky dismissal is not the best route.

                I’m totally blanking on who wrote it (Burt maybe???) but the recent piece exploring what would happen if we reflexively believed women making rape accusations and what that would mean for men… that was a fantastic way of exploring this process. “Man… that would/does REALLY, REALLY suck, no? Well, what if I told you people had to deal with that crap every minute of every day? That’s pretty sucky, too, right? What can we do so no one has to deal with such suckiness?”

                Unfortunately, all of us end up throwing pity parties for ourselves and playing “Oppression Olympics” and missing great opportunities to better understand one another’s experiences.Report

              • I forget who wrote it, too. I think it was a guest poster (and frequent commenter). But I forget his (I believe it was a he) name.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                It was a pretty remarkable piece.Report

              • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

                Personally, I think it would be interesting if we did away with the presumption of innocence for all crimes.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      Entitlement is an interesting phenomenon.

      On the one hand I agree with you that no one is entitled to attend their top choice college/university. Abigail Fisher did not have the grades to attend UT-Austin and so what that her family has a long history with the school. The woman who wrote the WSJ journal essay does not have a right to attend whatever school rejected her as well.

      However, there is something about a sense of entitlement that helps people achieve great things even if it makes them not humble and kind of bratty. Haven’t there been studies that show kids who come from the upper-middle class and above are more likely to interact with teachers as peers and equals and therefore develop better leadership or fighting skills later in life? They don’t simply take what is handed to them and be grateful.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        Good point. It kin of reminds me of the beginning of The Departed.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Entitlement is an interesting phenomenon.

        It must be an interesting experience for someone to discover that there are some things their money can’t buy for them. Or alternatively, that their family is not as rich as they thought. Granted, this is a matter of degree. Given sufficient money — eg, Mom and Dad fund the new life sciences building — admission can be bought anywhere.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          This is true.

          I imagine that Ms. Weiss comes from a very comfortable background, solidly upper-middle class or lower upper-class. However, elite universities are filled with students like her because in a country of 300 million people, there are a lot of people in that group. She might have just been unlucky enough to get rejected even though she could have gotten in.

          And I can write a whole post on how wealth is subjective and we all have a psychological tendency to look up.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            This strikes me as the real story here. Or, at least the most interesting part. Weiss apparently believed, at least to some extent, that as long as she did such-and-such and was just herself, she would get into the college of her choice. It’s not so much that she felt entitled to admittance as a birthright, but the American Dream of working hard and getting ahead. Getting ahead meaning, in her case, a pretty exclusive school.

            It’s easy to mock this. It’s easy to view it as out-and-out entitlement. But like the OWS protesters who say “Hey, I went to college like you asked me to, where’s the reward?” she feels let down. It’s actually very understandable.

            Move down a few rungs and you get to where I am. I was, more or less, raised that the Ivy Leagues were for other families. Didn’t matter how hard I tried, that was not in the cards. And with that, go to state school and work hard and you can have a Good Life of middle class or upper middle class wealth. That, too, can be yours.

            Move down a few rungs from me, and just as what Weiss takes for granted was something I was taught for others, people received signals that it doesn’t matter what they do, mainstream middle class life is for other people. It explains quite a bit of the “irresponsibility” of the lower classes. If working hard doesn’t actually get you ahead, if you lack role models where you see this happening, why bother with the long time horizon? Why not spend the money on things that will make your life or relative position better now?Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              I think here you actually have the seeds of some universal theory of class disillusionment or something. Please please flesh this idea out some more with a post or twelve.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              “Move down a few rungs from me, and just as what Weiss takes for granted was something I was taught for others, people received signals that it doesn’t matter what they do, mainstream middle class life is for other people. It explains quite a bit of the “irresponsibility” of the lower classes. If working hard doesn’t actually get you ahead, if you lack role models where you see this happening, why bother with the long time horizon? Why not spend the money on things that will make your life or relative position better now?”

              I think there are studies that show this to be true.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              “Weiss apparently believed, at least to some extent, that as long as she did such-and-such and was just herself, she would get into the college of her choice. It’s not so much that she felt entitled to admittance as a birthright, but the American Dream of working hard and getting ahead. Getting ahead meaning, in her case, a pretty exclusive school.”

              I don’t know the specifics of Ms. Weiss’s circumstances. My hunch is that while she is likely more privileged than most, I doubt she is the elite of the elite of the elite. And it is those folks who were most likely to have undeservedly claimed a spot that might have gone to Ms. Weiss. Yet she reflexively attacked groups further below her on the privilege pyramid… as is so often the case. As I discussed elsewhere w/r/t the Boston busing riots, setting up such dynamics is the way that the elite of the elite of the elite remain so. Rather than go after the likely culprits*, she attacks other victims of the system because it is ultimately they who she must compete with for the scraps that those at the top leave behind.

              * Presuming there are culprits. It is possible that Ms. Weiss was simply undeserving of attendance at the schools in question.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              If you don’t mind me asking, why and how were you taught that the Ivy League (and similar schools) were not in the cards?:

              1. Was it finances?

              2. Did your parents think you could not get in?

              3. Did they think that the Ivies were still filled with prep school kids only? (Call this finances and culture)

              Did your parents know about elite, non-Ivy schools like Emory, Wesleyan, MIT, CalTech, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Stanford, etc? If yes, what did they think of them?Report

              • I can’t speak for Will, but I was raised with expectations probably a rung lower from his. Ivies weren’t not only in the cards, they weren’t even mentioned as being in the cards, and the “private liberal arts colleges” were something that my parents did not seem to know about, unless it was University of Denver, and then they knew about it because it was in Denver and not because it is a private liberal arts college (I’m not sure it qualifies as one because it’s so big and has a law school and graduate programs, but it is private).

                I was raised to believe that if I worked hard in high school and saved my money, I might be able to go to “college.” I didn’t know at the time, but my parents were willing, and to some extent were prepared, to help me financially. Fortunately I got a scholarship and was able to fund the rest of my expenses through a part-time job and never needed their direct financial assistance (however, all the summers and Christmas breaks I stayed at home, rent-free, while I earned money at summer and Christmastime jobs, really was a subsidy).

                But my parents didn’t really know much about what “college” was other than that “college” existed and that people who went there were smart and seemed to do well. (But they were not that smart, as my father reminded me repeatedly. He was a skilled electrician and had to answer to college-trained engineers and “bureaucrats” at his jobs).

                Back to how I was “taught” not to go to the Ivies. My parents had heard of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, of course, But those were just unattainable things, probably too expensive and you’d probably need to have a relative who’s president of the U.S. or a comparable country to get in. There was a sense that no way could I be smart enough to go there or at least get accepted, but there was also a sense that no one we might know was really smart enough. It was kind of a mixture of envy, false modesty, inferiority complex, and something just unattainable.

                As for private liberal arts colleges, we, again, just didn’t really know what they were. My mother and I went to a college fair when I was a junior and just wandered around dumbfounded, picking up random pamphlets on this or that school with strange names we’d never heard of, like “Gustavus Adolphus.” (I had thought he was a Swedish King, but apparently he moved to America and founded a college.)

                I’m not saying any of this to complain–although some things happened along the way that really weren’t okay in the way I was treated, they were minor and I ultimately was treated very well and much better than people situated even more favorably than I was. But the learning about which schools are realistic or not was usually done indirectly, not on a simple, rational consideration of costs and opportunities, although those entered the picture, too.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                I can’t say I agree with this. I don’t think that parents should raise their kids with unrealistic expectations but at the same time they shouldn’t actively discouage relatively realstic aspirations as well. Telling your kid not to expect anything good in life, that life is a giant disappointment is just as bad as making your kid believe that nothing is impossible if you work hard enough.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                But isn’t that a bit of a false dichotomy?

                Why not tell them that life is hard but it is generally made easier by working hard. Nothing is guaranteed and sometimes things will seem unfair or be unfair. But work hard, know your strengths, know your limits, and always have a backup plan (or 7).Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                A lot of people adopt fatalism as a copy mechanism for the hardships of life. Its a lot easier to accept what you have if you don’t believe you could do better.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                There is a psychological basis for what Lee is saying.


                Victor Frankl believed that you had to always tell people to achieve and strive for something beyond their ability level. By doing this, they will hit their ability level. By setting realistic or lower expectations, you end up having people achieve less than they could.Report

              • A lot of people adopt fatalism as a copy mechanism for the hardships of life. Its a lot easier to accept what you have if you don’t believe you could do better.

                There’s probably a lot of truth to that. However, it doesn’t really address Kazzy’s point. And what he’s describing isn’t fatalism per se, but working within the things one cannot control.

                Maybe there are a lot more things one can control than appears to be the case. So not exploring what those things are can be a sort of fatalism, I suppose.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                And the thing about the Ivies and other elite schools is that they actually aren’t stingy with needs-based scholarships for students that get in but can’t afford the price tag. The same goes for other elite schools. They have their faults but meeting the needs of poorer or poor students isn’t one of them.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                A good friend of mine from HS went to Harvard. He was one of those well rounded types: two sport athlete, pretty good grades (3.6ish?), President of the Senior Class, lots of off campus extracurriculars. And financially very poor. They gave him a full ride.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Actually, same with two friends who went to Stanford: they got half-rides based on financial need.Report

              • LeeEsq,

                Just to be clear, my parents weren’t discouraging me from much of anything. True, the anecdote about my father being wary of the college educated people he had to answer to suggests what a lot of better off people like to call “anti-intellectualism.” But my parents supported me, even though they probably didn’t really understand what I was going to do with a double major in history and French.

                My main point, though, was that they were overall encouraging, largely clueless. They and I were ignorant about colleges–what different kinds there were, how financial aid worked, how we didn’t realize the official cost of tuition was something that expensive schools often met their students more than halfway with. They, not being college graduates, hadn’t been socialized into that culture.

                You point out in a comment below that Ivies and other elite schools are often not stingy with their financial aid. I don’t suggest otherwise. But in 1992, we (as in, my parents and I, and probably my high school guidance counselors) didn’t know that.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                You story sounds rather similar to other’s I have been reading in the media lately.

                The NY Times ran an op-ed by a young guy who was the first to go to college in his family. He grew up in small town Nevada and basically talked about how kid’s in his circumstances don’t know anything. The guy who wrote the piece was lucky because he could stay with an aunt in Vegas for the SAT IIs. No recruiter came to his school except the military. He ended up at the University of Nevada-Reno.

                There were similar articles I read about the urban poor, not going to schools as good as they could get into because no one explains the process to them. No one is around who can. So the poor and first-time college attendees who do attend the elite schools either had parents determined to do the research, the student does the research, or sheer luck.

                By “liberal arts” I meant more like undergrad only, small in size. The traditional elite ones on the east Coast are informally called “Little Ivies”. They are Williams, Amherst, Swathmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Vassar, Wesleyan, Colby, Bates, Bowdoin, etc.Report

              • ND,

                Yes, I thought that’s probably what you meant by “liberal arts” school. DU by that light doesn’t really count.Report

              • I should also add that even though I was first generation and my family was working class, I had a lot of breaks. For one thing, my family was affluent, even though working class, and for another, my high school was very good, at least if you qualified for the AP classes.Report

              • Avatar Nathanael says:

                “By “liberal arts” I meant more like undergrad only, small in size. The traditional elite ones on the east Coast are informally called “Little Ivies”. They are Williams, Amherst, Swathmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Vassar, Wesleyan, Colby, Bates, Bowdoin, etc.”

                And on the west coast, Pomona, Claremont, Harvey Mudd. And in the midwest, Oberlin, Carleton, ….

                These are top grade colleges with top grade teaching (better than the Ivy League by far) and excellent connections.

                They’re also mostly extremely expensive, some more expensive than the Ivy League. And more selective! They often offer very good scholarships, though.

                But outside the academic world, people haven’t heard of them: you’d have to buy a kid a copy of Fiske to find out about all of them, and outside the academic world, who’s even heard of Fiske?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I know of at least one charter school group, Harlem Success Academies (though they might just be Success Academies now that they’ve expanded outside of Harlem) that explicitly addresses the “expectation gap”. Working almost exclusively with inner city blacks and Hispanics, many of whom might otherwise not grow up with the expectation that they will attend college, classes are named based on the teacher’s alma mater and the year that the students would be anticipated to graduate college. Within the classroom, each teacher keeps a bulletin board up of college paraphanalia from his alma mater. The idea is that the kids grow up in an environment where college is the expectation. The school is relatively young (maybe 7-9 years old) so I don’t know that they’ve yet reached a point where a class of students has reached college age, but I’d be curious to see what the results are.

                If I taught PreK there, my class wouldn’t be called “Mr. Kazzy’s class”… it’d be called “Boston College ’26”.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                More info here:

                The first two points stand out. Now, there is a lot of buzz wording going on there, but that is to be expected from a school website. I have seen the classrooms though and that first point is definitely on display.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                ND, I don’t mind your asking. Some of all three.

                Basically, the Ivy Leagues are for people with connections (#1). We’re the grandchildren of a barber and alienated from the segment of the family with clout. There was a time Mom actually considered sending us to live with our aunt, attending an elite private school for the purpose of setting ourselves up to get into an exclusive college.

                Ultimately, though, it was kind of decided that you can live your life for a goal that would be difficult or impossible to obtain, or you can enjoy your life more as it is.

                Finances were also a concern (#2). Not so much that it couldn’t be afforded, but that it would be spending a lot and lot of money to “get ahead of yourself” (touching on #3). The alternative, a relatively low-cost state school and a comfortable upper-middle salary, was viewed as the superior alternative.

                Mom had a thing about Duke and would have loved for a child of hers to get a scholarship there. But absent a scholarship, it’s State U. There was a little bit of discussion when my brother got the attention of Brown, but I don’t know what conversations occurred behind closed doors. I just know my brother didn’t go to Brown.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Duke offered me a $2,000 scholarship, but that might as well have been free laundry or pencils given what Duke costs, so I went to UK. Once I saw Christian Laettner stomp Timberlake in one of the most famous basketball games of all time, I grew to hate Duke as much as everyone else who doesn’t go to Duke. ^_^

                Since then I’ve mellowed and decided that Laettner really is a great guy. When he coached an opposing international league team at Rupp Arena he went out on the court and cleaned the floor with a towel as an act of penance (this was about the time that Tosh.0 came out with web redemptions).Report

            • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

              I think a large part of the issue is that many upper and middle-class Americans, like most upper and middle-class Westerners, are incredibly resistant to the idea that life is not meritocratic. It takes a bit of lived experience and to realize that people can do everything right and still fail. Or that conversely, success can go to the massively undeserving.

              For whatever reason, we have trouble with the idea people do not get what they deserve.Report

          • Avatar Nathanael says:

            “And I can write a whole post on how wealth is subjective and we all have a psychological tendency to look up.”

            What’s interesting to me is not that, but that we only look up one or maybe two rungs.

            This is how the billionaires get away with murder.

            For the most part, only the millionaires are actually noticing it — nobody else is craning their neck that far up.Report

    • I found it mean, too, even though I agreed with the message.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        But how insulting was the WSJ piece? Sometimes it’s okay to fight fire with fire.Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

          Firebombing 17-year-olds is kinda like shooting fish in barrels…Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            But if no one is shooting at the fish… and the fish don’t belong in the barrels… and they’re spitting water in your face…

            Also, Ms. James is but 24 or 25 herself (judging from her graduation year). The age gap is not insignificant, but they are much closer to being peers than the quality of their writing might imply.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              Touché, sir.

              And Weiss did publish in the Wall Street Fishing Journal, so maybe she deserves to be mocked, but I think she’s more like Sherman McCoy there.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Well, there may be a difference. It’s sort of like when someone rails against some corporation that offshores its business. They’re not railing against the policy’s beneficiaries in India, they’re railing against people more powerful than they are. Weiss railed against a system and not targeting its alleged beneficiaries. Now, just like someone who wants to prevent offshoring is actively seeking to hurt those helped by it, I can understand the alleged beneficiaries of diversity programs taking offense here. But they did target Weiss and people like her in a much more specific, and personal, way than Weiss targeted them (except Sen. Warren).

          An aside — Now, as mentioned, my opinion of Weiss’s piece was not favorable. And to the extent that I am sympathetic to her, it’s only personal in a sense that I feel sorry for her if she is truly embittered by this. Beyond that, my only sympathy is that I am also uncomfortable with the system she is targeting. Not the racial diversity aspect of it, but her complaints weren’t entirely limited to that (all of this focus on a single paragraph). — end aside.

          Granted, she “put herself out there” for even personal criticism when she wrote the piece. I didn’t care much for the original piece – even though I shared at least some of the broad concerns, I also shared a number of James’ criticism – but the response (not just from James, but from a lot of people) raised the temperature even further and made actually talking about this more difficult. James’ piece would have been a lot better with a different approach.Report

        • Kazzy,

          Sorry I haven’t answered in a while.

          You’ve got a point (and I read only James’s post, not the WSJ article, so I’ll take your and James’s interpretation at face value). I was referring more to the generalizing comments about “white girls.” However, I agree with what you wrote above at 10pm (April 10).Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            James’s piece is far from perfect and definitely skews mean. I am okay with the level of meanness because of the frustration underlying it. But I do realize YMMV and that the tone undermined the success of the piece at least a bit.Report

            • Thanks, and I really meant it when I said I agree with your above comment.

              Those types of generalizations I have to put up with only rarely and even when I do, I don’t lose my privilege. I ought to remember how it felt in this situation when I encounter people who probably endure this type of commentary a lot more than I ever will (knock on wood). Even though I know better, I sometimes choose to think “why don’t they get over it.” (And there are a lot of problems with that six-word phrase!) It’s good for me to remember that it takes me a while “to get over it” when a relatively minor circumstance happens my way.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Tone… Why this fixation with tone? And not just you.

              And what was the tone undermining?

              I’m all in favor of not attacking your political/ideological/college admissions opponents callously and with rampant disregard, of course. All that does is entrench that opponent in their views. But even that idea can be disregarding and condescending since it presumes – correctly in most cases but unfortunate nonetheless – that people will react emotionally and not rationally to your argument.

              James’ tone can be criticized on any number of levels. For example, if her tone was more restrained and to one person’s liking, someone else could – and undoubtedly would! – criticize her tone for being too appeasing. Isn’t that just the way the public communication thing works?

              Mark T. wrote a comment on one of Russell’s threads that strikes me as completely true and accurate. Unimpeachable!, in fact. Sometimes mockery and ridicule is the best way to respond to certain people’s views. I can see a case being made that James’ tone was too restrained, given the mock-worthiness of the subject she was writing about. Who’s to say, tho? People disagree about this stuff.

              {{Just don’t mock me for liking Phil Collins music, OK? That’s waaaay over the line.}}Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve argued often that appeals to tone are often used to further entrench privilege… “We have a way of doing and saying things, which we sometimes observe. But should you fail to observe it, we’ll just ignore you and write you off as uppity.”

                The reason I think her tone somewhat undermined the piece is because it gave folks who wanted to dismiss her an excuse to do so. I don’t necessarily think all objections are done with that in mind, but if you leave the door open… Unfortunately, as you point out, tone often creates a no-win situation for folks railing against the status quo. That is why I generally won’t bring it up unless it is already on the table and tend to applaud righteous anger.

                But it is telling that there appears to be more conversation about James’ tone than Weiss’.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                For the sake of clarity and transparency, when I said, “I’ve argued often that appeals to tone are often used to further entrench privilege,” I do include the “gentlemanly conventions” that are sometimes selectively pursued here.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But it is telling that there appears to be more conversation about James’ tone than Weiss’.


              • Now that I’ve actually read the WSJ article. Wow. It’s really….awful, perhaps especially, but not only, because of the racist imagery and the gratuitous stabs at affirmative action.Report

              • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

                Well, one is written by an entitled 17 year old. The other is written by an adult, albeit a young one.

                Honestly, I am more confused as to why the WSJ ran the story at all.Report

              • Me too. The WSJ decision suggests, to me, a lack of good editorial discretion.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:


              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                “But it is telling that there appears to be more conversation about James’ tone than Weiss’.”

                That’s because Weiss’s tone is the reason that James’s piece exists.Report

              • That seems counter-intuitive to me. If Weiss’s tone is the reason the James piece exists, wouldn’t we be talking more about the Weiss piece than the James piece, at least when it comes to questions of tone?Report

              • That’s a fair point, Stillwater, at least to the extent your comment might have been addressed to me. I know it was Kazzy who mentioned tone sometimes undermining the argument, but I indulge in tone-trolling enough to plead guilty.

                My first instinct is defensive and it is to insist that tone is part of the message, that style is part of the substance. I really do believe this. I also believe that the rule of charity in dialogue is partly about tone, in my view. I don’t believe I am merely making an idol out of “civility” and I don’t think “civility” is only a way to encourage people to accept one’s argument. I believe it is also part of the argument itself.

                That said, my second instinct is to reflect a little more and acknowledge that what you say is essentially correct. We (I) can focus too much on tone and disregard the message or not give the message it’s full due. And we can have too much civility. Some positions and some people do not deserve civility, and mockery can be a good (if cruel seeming) way to critique even less outre positions.

                My third instinct is to reflect my concern about “tone” onto myself. My own sensitivity to “tone” is part of the “tone” of any comment in which I display it. It’s possible to be too sensitive to the way people say things, and I think I cross that line a lot of times. And I do so conveniently, more often when it serves my purposes and less often when it does not serve my purposes. I think the so-called rule of charity is best served when it is applied to oneself. This might be a tu quoque, but it seems to me that the people who invoke the rule of charity most often are those who are most willing to violate it. In such case, if I invoke it, I ought to be especially on guard, lest my “tu quoque” become an “ego quoque.”Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                This is well said, but I respectfully disagree. Especially when discussing issues of race or gender or sexual orientation… all the -isms that so often trip us up. For so long, the privileged majority set the tone of this conversation, and it was often ugly and vile and hatefilled. Things have changed – thankfully! – but it seems a bit self-serving to now demand that the folks who were for so long the target of ugly, vile, hateful speech and who still endure such indignities though generally more subtly to play by a set of rules that only recently seemed to have taken precedent.

                I’m not accusing you of this… any calls for tone I’ve seen from you have generally been more universal, not deliberately or explicitly steeped in privilege.

                But, if you’re going to shit on people, it isn’t fair to object to handing them some toilet paper because they didn’t ask nicely enough. Is tone like that which James utilized always the most effective? No… but that is ultimately her and her compatriots decision to make. Jason Kuzniki and Russell and North, I believe, often call for restraint when pushing the “gay agenda”; but they are within the targeted group and should be the ones directing it. If I were to preach to them that same message… it would and should be received differently.Report

              • Yes, simply calling tone a disqualifier–one hoop that if the speaker doesn’t jump through it, justifies ignoring what the speaker says–is rank unfairness.

                “any calls for tone I’ve seen from you have generally been more universal, not deliberately or explicitly steeped in privilege.”

                Thanks, but I actually suspect that my concern about “tone” comes from privilege, whether I make it explicit or not. That’s probably why it’s better for those concerned about tone (e.g., me) ought to be introspective about it rather than preach at others to do so. However, it’s easier (and more fun) to preach at others what they should do than it is to take the mote out of one’s own eye.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Oh, you’re a privileged son-of-a-gun no doubt, but I don’t think your intention is ever to deliberately manipulate conversation. Case in point, your call for introspection here.

                The manipulators are the Sean Hannity’s of the world, who shout over everyone and then say, “Well, if you’re not going to let me get a word in edgewise, I’ll just drop you,” any time the person starts to make a good point.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                “it seems a bit self-serving to now demand that the folks who were for so long the target of ugly, vile, hateful speech and who still endure such indignities though generally more subtly to play by a set of rules that only recently seemed to have taken precedent.”

                Tu Quoque argument.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                I’m not justifying the actions because the other side did it.

                What I’m saying is that Side A employed Action X to gain power over Side B. When Side B attempts to employ Action X to balance power with Side A, suddenly Side A, powerful enough to change the rules, decides that only Action Y is permissible.

                This isn’t limited to discourse, but is a consequence of privilege. The US destroyed the shit out of the natural world for decades, using such actions to rise to prominence. But now we want to tell other nations that they can’t do the same because we’ve “realized the errors of our ways”.


              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                “I’m not justifying the actions because the other side did it.”

                Actually that is *exactly* what you are doing.

                You need to decide whether uglyvilehateful is acceptable or not. If acting that way makes you a bad person, then, well, acting that way makes you a bad person. If uglyvilehateful is okay sometimes when it’s like rilly important and stuff? But only when it’s the good guys that do it? It leaves me wondering whether you aren’t arguing against an act but against the people doing it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Yea… because Ms. James calling out Ms. Weiss is the same as burning crosses, hanging people from trees, and shouting, “Nigger,”… right?

                Ms. James wasn’t hateful, ugly, or vile. She might have been “mean”… but that is really the worst you can say of her tone.

                Yet folks want to talk about tone because it is the only thing they can criticize about Ms. James’ piece. Rather than deal with the content, they attack the way in which it is delivered, ignoring the ways in which we are a culture steeped in meanness because of historical atrocities committed by the people in power.

                But, hey, she made a 17-year-old girl sad… she’s the real monster.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Can’t we go back to discussing who is and who is not Jewish?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                And, here we are… rather than discussing the merits of Ms. Weiss’ claim or Ms. James’ claim, we are arguing over who was meaner and who’s the “real racist.”

                The college admissions process is fucked up. Ms. Weiss accurately highlights some of the problems. But she also completely misses the mark on others. Ms. James hits some of the issues Ms. Weiss missed clear on the head. Though they come from diverging perspectives and have diverging viewpoints of the problem, together, we can cobble together a really interesting conversation about the impacts of privilege, race, gender, class, and other factors on the college admissions process.

                But, nah, some negro lady got uppity and damned if we’re going to let that stand.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Is it acceptable for me to shoot you if you shoot me first, Jim?Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                “because Ms. James calling out Ms. Weiss is the same as burning crosses, hanging people from trees, and shouting, “Nigger,”… right?”

                I think you forgot about how you *weren’t* making a Tu Quoque argument.

                “some negro lady got uppity and damned if we’re going to let that stand.”

                I think you forgot about how this *wasn’t* about racism.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Do you have a substantive argument to make or do you just want to try to poke pin holes in other people’s?

                It’d be tu quoque if Ms. James was burning crosses, hanging people from trees, or shouting racial epithets and I was defending her. That’s not happening. Rather, I’m pointing out that a bit of “meanness” is a logical consequence for the way white people have treated black people for the vast majority of our history together in this history.

                There are racial elements to the story, no doubt. Again, there is a difference between “race is a factor” and “you are a racist”. But if you want to make things really, really, really simple, you’ll have to excuse me for declaring you a simpleton and disengaging.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                “I’m pointing out that a bit of “meanness” is a logical consequence for the way white people have treated black people for the vast majority of our history together in this history.”

                I think you forgot about how you *weren’t* making a Tu Quoque argument.

                Seriously, dude, you keep saying “it’s okay for black people to be horrible assholes because white people were horrible assholes first”. Unless you honestly believe that tit-for-tat vengenace is excusable then I don’t understand how you *aren’t* making a tu quoque argument!Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                you keep saying “it’s okay for black people to be horrible assholes because white people were horrible assholes first”.

                You realize that by the transitive property of assholishness, here, you just equated a snarky takedown blog post with Jim Crow, slavery, and the KKK?

                Or maybe there’s some nuance in here that you’re overlooking in your attempt to make a point?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                I’m going to ask this very simply and clearly…

                Do you have a point? If so, what is it?Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                “You realize that by the transitive property of assholishness, here, you just equated a snarky takedown blog post with Jim Crow, slavery, and the KKK?”

                So when Kazzy wrote “it seems a bit self-serving to now demand that the folks who were for so long the target of ugly, vile, hateful speech and who still endure such indignities though generally more subtly to play by a set of rules that only recently seemed to have taken precedent” he *wasn’t* equating a snarky takedown post with Jim Crow etcetera?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                That’s not happening. Rather, I’m pointing out that a bit of “meanness” is a logical consequence for the way white people have treated black people for the vast majority of our history together in this history.

                The parties involved are a young black woman who never lived under Jim Crow, and an even younger white girl who never participated in Jim Crow. How is this relevant? I think there’s a word for treating people as interchangeable just because they’re members of the same race.

                And it’s pretty rich for her to be talking about “white privilege” in the context of college admissions. Top colleges bend over backwards to admit underrepresented minorities, lowering admission standards for them, often to the point where they’re not actually any more underrepresented than non-Hispanic whites. I can’t think of any more inappropriate context in which to invoke the concept of white privilege. But when all you have is a hammer…Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                So you have no point. Just as I thought. Meh.

                Let’s assume what you say is true; I disagree but lets run with it.

                Weiss lacks white privilege in college admissions but maintains it everywhere else. Her standing in college admissions is James standing damn near everywhere else in the world. But we constantly tell the Jameses of the world to shut up about racism. Yet Weiss is given a forum to say, “Wahhhh… My privilege is gone… I’m being treated like everyone else… It’s not faaaaaaaair.” And James nailed her for it. Seems fair to me.Report

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    The inherent clueless whinyness of saying ” I did everything right, so i should get what i want” does stand out. Lots of people do “everything right” and don’t get what they want or at least easily and exactly when they want it. How does someone just assume they are guaranteed to get into an Ivy unless they were tops in everything and even then they might not.

    She doesn’t exactly present what i think they call in college, evidence, showing how she was screwed over. Her condescension at all those silly minority types, who obviously didn’t also do everything right just like her. Why i’ll bet she dotted every i with a special smiley face. Even back in my day it was frickin common knowledge that extracurriculars really really helped. Did no one tell her clubs, sports and all that other stuff matter?

    It’s not hard to wonder at what kind of privilege got her a spot in WSJ. I couldn’t get that. Almost nobody could. It’s almost like she must have been sort of lucky or did everything right or her sister used to an assistant editor at WSJ.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      “It’s not hard to wonder at what kind of privilege got her a spot in WSJ.”

      As I understand it, her sister does or used to work there.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      Thanks. I saw “or her sister used to ____ an assistant editor at WSJ” and was playing fill-in-the-verb.Report

  4. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Kendra is right on.

    I remember that the young woman who wrote the WSJ had a relative (an older sister I think) who was fairly high-up in the company and that is how the piece got published. Yet I can’t imagine why anyone thought it would be a good idea to publish that letter.

    She has a right to be upset about college admissions decisions. But writing this essay seems weird.Report

  5. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    I think she’s right. It certainly doesn’t speak well of the young woman who wrote the “letter” that she immediately jumped to affirmative action as the reason she was rejected, as opposed to the fact that there’s simply far too many highly-qualified students who want to get in.

    However, it does seem to me that there’s something wrong with a system where universities are getting ten times more highly-qualified, academically-strong applicants than they can admit. Given that getting in is to some degree a lottery, it seems like degrees from the Ivy League are overvalued relative to what they actually say about a student. (Bush went to Yale, and I had better decision-making ability at fifteen than he had as President.)Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      To be fair, while AA was (unwisely) mentioned first, and that’s what people are focusing on because it’s the most contentious, it wasn’t the sole focus of the essay.

      Given that getting in is to some degree a lottery, it seems like degrees from the Ivy League are overvalued relative to what they actually say about a student.

      I couldn’t agree with this more. Several years ago, I was rather livid when it was suggested that Harriet Miers wasn’t qualified to be on the Supreme Court because she went to SMU Law and not an Ivy League law school. There were so many reasons to criticize that nomination, that anybody chose to go there really opened my eyes.Report

      • Avatar Gaelen says:

        I just wanted to second (or third) the notion that society places too great a weight on degrees from the Ivies and other similarly prestigious schools.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      That’s one way to keep elite institutions elite by making sure there is more supply than demand.

      However, I think this arms race is fairly new.

      I went to a highly-selective school. It was my first choice and I got in off the wait list. This was 1998. If I applied today, I don’t think I would have even made it unto the wait list. How did this arms race happen so quickly in the past few years?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        That’s one way to keep elite institutions elite by making sure there is more supply than demand.


        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          Of course how an institution becomes elite it is another issue.

          There are probably universities that attract B students that can go after all the worthy Ivy rejects.

          But then people would complain that there are no universities for the B students anymore.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            It’s an issue at my alma mater. It’s making a transition to being a much more selective university than it used to be as it climbs up the ladder of various rankings (We’re benefiting from the fact that the state flagship(s) are increasingly fulled up). There are sort of mixed feelings among the alums. “Great! My school is becoming so good that it wouldn’t accept me anymore. Hey, wait a minute…”

            I could still get in. I’m not sure if I could still get into the Honors College, though.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

            IMO, the average intelligence and ability of the professoriate has gone way up in the last 30-50 years. (I saw this in philosophy.)

            A lot of people who could get a TT job at major state universities 40 years ago wouldn’t have the talent or drive to get a job at a CC these days. And if you look at young faculty at so-called average schools, a lot of them are really bright and impressive professors. IMO. No data, just anecdata about philosophy faculties I studied and have heard about.

            But this means you get a heck of an education from brilliant, well educated, hard working people at a lot of different schools, not just the Ivy League.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        I was applying to go to college in the late 1990s and the competition didn’t seem so intense then even for the elite schools like Harvard or Yale. Does anybody have any idea why the arms race for the elite colleges increased so much in such a short time?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Rising economic insecurity, inequality, cost of living, As our government and institutions become more centralized, there’s less room at the top. As our country becomes more knit together, the hierarchy matters more.

          I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these things are most important in or near the more expensive parts of the country. There is a feeling like it’s getting harder and harder to avoid sinking into the proletariat.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            Despite 9/11, our government is at best only slightly more centralized in 2013 than it was when I applied for college in 1997. Looming economic security, I give you that. I wonder if college applications felt like this during the Great Depression.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              There’s an argument to be made that the centralization on the government end is a belated reaction (nothing happens right away) and in part the product of “institutions.” Corporate consolidation. Media (both news and entertainment) consolidation. The Internet.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            The explosion of globalization in recent years might have contributed to the arms race. The Internet was still very much in infancy when I went to college. It was still very primitive and what you could do with it was limited. The world was still unconnected in many ways. Now everything is much more tight and its the global race to the bottom.Report

        • Avatar Creon Critic says:

          A 20% increase in the number of high school graduates (1997-today, 2.6 to 3.4 million) and the rational strategy of each applicant seeking an elite school applying to more schools (Chronicle, IHE). If I’m aiming for a name brand school and I’m aware that admissions trends have been to reject more and more excellent applicants, 80% and more often 90%+ rejection rates at the Ivies, there’s a strong encouragement to apply to 12 or 13 schools instead of 8 or 9 schools like in years past. That process only feeds on itself. There have been some very modest increases in the class sizes of some schools, but nothing like 20%.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          I wonder if social media could be a factor? Back in our day, if you got accepted to an Ivy League school you got to gloat for a few months and then rarely saw most of your high-school classmates and friends back home again. Now they all have to see your acceptance on your FB page forever and all time, and you can tweet them about how hard it is to be in an elite school.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Do people really care that much about where their friends go to school? I mean, I know at 17, it seems like the absolute biggest deal ever, but I don’t even give it a second thought. A bunch of my friends went to school with me, another group went to school together at a big state school, and the rest were scattered in all directions… I don’t actually even know where some of the people I met post-college once; it’s come up in conversation one way or another but is otherwise not something we really discuss unless we’re A) talking about college sports or B) sharing war stories. I don’t really think differently about anyone as a function of where they went to school (or if they didn’t go to college at all). I know some people I was once close with were really focused on it to the point of not wanting to associate with people who went to “lesser” schools… but all those folks went to Cornell which seems to breed a unique form of self-conscious asshole.Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            Well, that would be the question. Do these new kids, who grew up texting each other and Facebooking non-stop, have a different sense of peer-group hierarchies than we did? Has it made them more competitive regarding things like Florida vacation spots (“my new pics are cooler than his!”), gadgets (“I just got the iPhone 5!”) and other things?

            It probably wouldn’t be too hard to do a survey of the new students, but I’m not sure what prior surveys you could reference their answers to.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              I’d say yes social media has changed peer groups. Kids today easily have multiple peer groups (local friends, friends who moved away but they are still in contact with, social media friends who they know mostly or entirely from SM, relatives scattered around the country) I’ve known kids here in Alaska who, despite having left state once or not all, have meaningful connections to people across the country.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              I think the Internet has made me mildly more self-conscious about the non-eliteness of my college. A while back a reader on my personal blog discovered my name. Went on to Facebook and say my college. Expressed surprised and wondered why I didn’t consider a couple other schools.

              Most people back home either know that there are good reasons to go to the school I did, or don’t respond the same way in person the way they do on the Internet. Likewise, people talk more… freely… about what they think of schools on the Internet than I think they do in person.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                This is all very interesting.

                I grew up a middle-class white kid who had the expectations that college was a matter of “where” not “if” or “when”. But I grew up in a town that had a large lower and lower-middle-class black population, the children of which grew up with much more of an “if” mindset. For a host of reasons, many of my friendships with these kids dwindled as high school progressed, but I remained on good terms with most.

                The summer after freshmen year, I remember going down to the outdoor courts to ball. Once the games were done, a number of us sat around the courts talking, with most of the other kids being from the latter group described above. When I mentioned that I had spent the prior year studying at BC, they were amazed. Many of them hadn’t gone to college at all and those that did mostly attended local schools or community colleges. For someone, I might have been the only kid they talked to since graduation who had gone away to school as I did.

                This was really interesting to me, especially given that us BC-ers tended to think of ourselves as a bunch of Georgetown and Harvard rejects, since that was the truth for many of us (count me among the former). Despite BC’s status in the country, we were probably only the third or fourth best school in the Boston area (Harvard, MIT, Tufts).

                I don’t know that I really have a point here, outside of to say that so much of this is relative. I guess because I realized that relatively early, I don’t put much stock into where folks went to college. I realize full well that where one goes has to do with so many factors other than their talent and efforts that it seems silly to judge them based on it. I have close friends who had to “settle” for Rutgers over NYU and Columbia because of finances or being one of two many brilliant Indian kids from the NY metro area (respectively). I had a roommate who attended Cornell and was such an asshat because of it that it made me respect him less. I’ve met idiot “legacy” kids and brilliant students of color who got in on merit but everyone assumed otherwise. Our valedictorian got chided for “only” going to Williams but the kid was an eccentric, pot smoking genius who didn’t want to deal with a lot of pressure and would be successful no matter what path he took.

                For context, Facebook debuted when I was a junior in college.Report

              • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

                Man Americans are wrapped up in where they go to school.

                Its interesting, because the Canadian experience is so much more…flattened, I suppose? There are schools that excel in different areas, for grad work in particular, but, to take law for example, the grads from the best and worst Canadian law schools have pretty similar employment prospects.

                There are a few schools (like U of T and York and McGill) which really like to think of themselves as a Canadian Ivy League, but it is very different.

                So, serious question, for Will or anyone else; what is behind the American obsession with College?Report

    • Avatar Shazbot5 says:


      Not sure how you would make the colleges in the U.S. more equal in prestige to end this weird competition for spots.

      IMO, quality of education or life experience during college doesn’t track with prestige of the school very well. I know the teaching of philosophy, for example, at any most any State school or even lots of CC’s is as good as at NYU and Rutgers (who are ranked as having the most prestigious faculty). The class sizes vary here and there, but for most students you can get time and interaction with your profs even in a somewhat larger class. The average student might be smarter here or there, but most schools will have lots of smart people for you to interact with at any major university and lots of CC’s.

      Future earnings and success may track prestige of college more closely, but maybe that is part of the problem.

      Here in the U.S. there seems to be more of a belief that you need to buy a good position for your children by buying them the right education than there was when I lived in Canada. I suspect most Europeans don’t worry and spend as much money and time to give their children advantages in future job competitions with poorer children either.

      This buying of prestigious education for rich children is a major source of worsening inequality in the U.S. as compared to elsewhere, IMO.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The primary advantage to an elite school is if you want to go into one of those career tracks that is extremely exclusive or really hard to excel in (the kind of thing where every advantage over someone else matters). That’s where it matters a great deal. The problem is, the exclusive career track includes “running our country” and that becomes a problem.

        If you’re looking to make money, there are way more options than an elite school.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          There are also some great schools that are considered second tier in this regard:

          The article is about how undergrads who want to work in investment banking need to attend Harvard, Yale, and Princeton basically. Maybe Stanford and Wharton (UPENN) are also good.

          Brown and Cornell are not good for careers in investment banking and both are really excellent schools.

          I would personally rather attend Brown or Cornell over Harvard/Yale/Princeton.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Which reminds me, I shouldn’t have said “make money” because that’s too open ended. If you want to make lots and lots and lots of money, Ivy League can be important. But if you want to make good money, a good living, whatever… then you have a lot more options. Especially if you don’t live in really expensive parts of the country.Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            What gets me is why the elites don’t expand. If you’re charging kids $250,000 or so for an education and rejecting 90% of the applicants (your potential market), perhaps accepting only 3,000 or so kids, what does that say about your business acumen?

            “Gee whiz, professor, if we accepted all of this year’s applicants we’d make an extra $6.75 billion dollars off of them instead of the $750 million we get now, stabilizing at $30 billion a year once we’ve got a full class. I say we throw up buildings like the Manhattan project and grab market share.”

            “But where will we find professors?”

            “We’re an elite school. Heck, our rejection rates for those are even higher! We should charge them to work here.”

            “They’d never be dumb enough to go for that.”

            “All the students are!”

            “It will hurt our prestige.”

            “You can’t eat prestige, and besides, we’ll crush all our rivals in football, publish ten times more academic papers than we used to, and have ten times more alumni sending us money.”

            “But what if all the other elites follow suit?”

            “Then they’ll be no more elite than we will.”

            In a free market, supply and demand are supposed to stabilize except for objects whose value is derived from rarity instead of utility. That Ivy League schools don’t expand like a craze indicates they know what type of product they’re really offering.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              You’ve been on a roll lately, George. Keep it up.Report

            • Avatar LWA says:

              Rarity is exactly the product they offer.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              Truly elite schools aren’t found in America.
              Of course, those have a tendency to occasionally kill their students.

              … coincidence?Report

            • Avatar Nathanael says:

              So, the Ivies, especially Harvard, really are getting their value from rarity; many of them have extremely bad teaching reputations due to massive, anonymous freshman courses taught by grad students.

              Now contrast the elite small liberal arts colleges, where the teaching is actually good. I went to Carleton. They underestimated their “yield” for something like eight years in a row, and the student body kept increasing repeatedly. (Partway through, they had to raise professor salaries because they couldn’t retain new hires of the same quality as the existing staff.)

              The most significant thing, however, was that the dorms started overflowing. They had to build new dorms.

              It turns out, although it’s easy to get big donations for stupid athletic buildings and for labs and even for classrooms, it’s *not* so easy to get donations for dorms.

              The endowment wasn’t keeping up with expenses and the President ended up stumping for money significantly more…

              I’m not kidding, unfortunately. The best smaller colleges don’t want to grow partly because it requires getting money to build dorms.Report

        • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

          Isn’t access to entry-level work on Wallstreet and to a lot of high-end, corporate, entry-level executive jobs closed to most (obviously not all, we’re dealing with percentages here) everyone outside of a certain set of fairly prestigious degree holders? (I thought the answer was yes, but I really don’t know.)

          Of course, being an entrepeneur is open to all, but it is also riskier.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I think venture capital is probably more likely to be open to some than others. Much more likely.Report

            • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

              You mean the Mitt Romney and sons thing?

              I’ll take your word for it, but my gut says no.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I mean the people you meet at Harvard are much more likely to later be in a position to influence venture capital than the people you meet at the University of Washington, even if the latter is a really good school, or the University of South Florida, which itself is a good school.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                I found this incomplete info from 2008:

                “Sixty-four percent of those surveyed have masters or PhD degrees. However, 74 percent of non- whites and 81 percent of those born outside of the U.S. earned masters or PhDs, compared with 62 percent of whites and 61 percent of U.S.-born VCs. Slightly over half of all respondents (52 percent) hold an MBA.

                The top universities attended by all venture capital respondents were Harvard (12 percent), Stanford (nine percent), University of Pennsylvania (eight percent), Duke University (five percent) and MIT (five percent). While 33 percent of all those surveyed attended one of these schools, the number climbs further to 42 percent when analyzing just those respondents with investor titles.

                So Harvard and Stanford produce 20 percent of all VC (not Viet Cong, much more destructive to the US than the Viet Cong). And 5 schools produce 42 percent of all VC. I’m guessing that the other Ivy League schools: Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Brown each add a percentage or two for a total of, say, 8 more percent.

                I’m guessing that Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Berkeley, CalTech, and a few other non-Ivy elite schools are well represented too.

                Surely more than 75 percent of all VC come from one of a list of 15 top schools. The other quarter is probably a hodge podge of elite schools, with some international elite schools (Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, LSE) and the best state schools (UT Austin, UNC, UCLA) and maybe even some liberal arts schools.

                I suspect that there are very few UC Davis grads or SUNY grads, or the like, even though these are excellent schools. Very few indeed.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Thanks a lot for finding that, Shaz.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      I think your second paragraph describes the problem with American higher education really well. The number of qualified students for elite institutions rose exponentially since the end of WWII while the number of elite institutions remained constants. There are plenty of near elite colleges and universities that are just as good but they don’t have the cachet of the elite ones. Students, rightly or wrongly, view it as hurting their job prospects. The rise of the internship as a prerequisite for a good job in many places makes things worse.Report

  6. Avatar Shazbot5 says:

    If the letter-writer does the Fox, conservative media tour and then writes a book for a conservative publisher, the joke will be on all of us. She’ll have turned the lemon of getting rejected into the lemonade of grifting conservative media watchers for a few hundred grand.

    Surely that grifting should qualify her to get into a good school for grifters. Does Glenn Beck still have a university? Oh wait, that is a grift itself, not teaching people to be grifters. Sorry.Report

  7. Avatar N.Elias.Kelly says:

    My first thought’s on reading Weiss’s piece was that she didn’t really do “everything right.”

    I applied to college five years ago. Things were competitive. I am sure they have become more so. And the message isn’t “Be yourself.” It’s “Show us why you deserve to be at our school.” I grew up in a very privileged area of the North East, I have seen the entitled children of elites in action; and no one thinks that being yourself is how you get into college. If you want to go to an exceptional school then you need to go display your excellence.

    Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty that is messed up about the college system. Many teens are too busy saving money for college to engage in the kind of extracurriculars that so many schools value so much. There is a lot of perversity out there. But as far as I can tell, Weiss has little to nothing to do with that. Instead, she got solid grades (I didn’t go to a school that had GPAs above 4, I am not sure what scale 4.5 is on) and a good SAT score and that seems to be about it. That isn’t enough. She got into some schools and good for her, but I know people who went to those elite schools she was rejected from, and they brought a hell of a lot more than her to the table.

    As far as picking-on a teenager goes, I honestly think people are under-estimating seventeen year olds. They lack judgement, sure, but they are clearly capable of at least trying to write an argument. The way I see it, she is one year off from being able to join the army. if she is 12-months from being trusted to go out and do violence in our name, then I think we can respond to a screed that she decided to use her family connections to have published in a major american paper. If there has been harassment, threats, etc, then I will certainly condemn them. But she is old enough to deal with the consequences of becoming a participant in the market place of ideas.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, NEK. Lots of good points here.Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      Agreed. And even at the “gentler,” but still competitive, schools, what that gentleness means is that instead of saying
      “Show us why you deserve to be at our school.”
      they say
      “Show us why you belong here. Show us that we have the same goals in mind for your education that you do, and that you stand a serious chance of accomplishing them.”

      They do want prospective students to be themselves, but just as much so they can avoid the students they don’t want as so that they can select the ones they do.Report

      • Avatar Nathanael says:

        Heh. I had a different attitude — I had a truly arrogant attitude, which most “entitled” people don’t seem to have. I applied to 12 top-tier schools, figuring “Hell, I’m brilliant, someone will recognize it”. Thank goodness I didn’t have to worry about the cost of the application fees. I figured school admissions were partly a crapshoot (so apply to lots of places)… but also a school which rejected me probably wasn’t good enough for me. I was looking for reasons to reject schools, rather than vice versa. Well, I had 7 acceptances to choose from.

        Most people don’t even know what an arrogant attitude *looks* like.

        Weiss has a *fragile* attitude. Someone truly arrogant would have said, “Well, these Ivy League schools aren’t good enough for me”, and written a piece not defending themselves, not attacking minorities, but simply badmouthing the schools and saying she made a mistake to pay the application fee.

        Frankly, Harvard wasn’t good enough for me (its undergraduate teaching reputation is *appalling*) and so I didn’t even apply. It shouldn’t have a reputation; it’s a crap school through and through. I know one person who I encouraged to go to Harvard — *because she was an autodidact and would do well even with no teaching at all* — all she needed was a credential and access to a library and some smart people. I try to tell everyone else to stay away from Harvard, and I generally think of a Harvard degree as a badge of stupidity (’cause why the hell did you go there, you fool?)Report

  8. Avatar Kazzy says:

    While we’re at it, I want to give a big shout out to Racialicious, the blog from which this piece originated. They have a lot of really talented writers exploring fascinating topics. The comments section isn’t much because their is heavy moderation, but the pieces are strong.Report

  9. Avatar clawback says:

    Wow, folks. Listen to yourselves. You do understand she’s a child, right? She doesn’t have the experience to develop any perspective on what has happened. Anyone here ever had an adolescent in the house? Everything that happens is the Worst Thing in the World.

    But rather than pointing out that a child acts childishly, you might have tried to look beyond her perfectly normal reaction to consider what she had to say about the admissions process for elite colleges. It’s a kabuki dance the ultimate purpose of which is simply to perpetuate privilege. This has been pointed out by many observers, but she actually did an exceptional job of illustrating it. At her age this is a remarkable accomplishment. She’s going to be OK.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Let’s think about this…

      Show of hands… who here got rejected from a college they really wanted to go to?


      Show of hands… who wrote an op-ed piece for the WSJ blaming people of color for you not getting exactly what you wanted?


      No one is faulting her for being disappointed. The criticism lies in the degree to which she is disappointed, which seems predicated on her extreme sense of entitlement. She really had no idea that she might not get into the school she wanted to. She believes she did everything right and, as such, should get everything she wanted. Many, many folks have learned by 17 years of age that that is not how the world works. That you can do everything right and still not get what you want… that you can’t assume anything… that nothing is given to you. It is a shame that it took her so long to learn that lesson, but that speaks to the degree of privilege that she holds but which is totally unaware of. She sees herself the victim of an unfair system, and perhaps she is to a degree, but more often than not she is benefiting from that same unfair system. To cry about it now shows a degree of self-centeredness and lack of perspective that is deserving of criticism.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        It seems to me that the people who truly deserve criticism more than anyone are whoever told her publishing this would be a good idea and whoever decided such a thing would be good journalistic practice.Report

        • Avatar clawback says:

          Yep. The main thing I’d criticize about the piece is the snide reference to affirmative action. The WSJ should have edited that out.

          But, of course, the snide reference to affirmative action is exactly the reason the WSJ published it. And yet here we’ve got 100+ comments denouncing the seventeen-year-old in this picture.Report

          • Avatar Maribou says:

            I wasn’t denouncing her. I was saying she was wrong, and I hoped she would learn from the experience. And also saying that Ms. James (also not a whole lot older than 17) had a much more convincing statement to make.

            I think that having opinions about 17-year-olds that involve wanting to help them better themselves is an entirely appropriate response to their youth. If Ms. Weiss had been 40, I would’ve had ENTIRELY different (and much more hostile) opinions about her article.Report

          • Avatar Gaelen says:

            While I agree that there is a valid critique of undergrad admission policies buried within her tone deaf piece–this wasn’t it. And, the more I think about it, her argument isn’t even one I necessarily agree with. Suzy doesn’t seem to be attacking the ways in which this system entrenches privilege, rather (in her opinion) it demands things that she cannot control, or it requires disingenuous work she is not willing to do. The entire thing comes off as petulant and whiny.Report

            • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

              I agree with this.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              or it requires disingenuous work she is not willing to do.

              Alsotoo, what she views as disingenuous.

              Yes, that’s how it struck me as well. Very well said.Report

            • Avatar clawback says:

              I thought it was clear she was satirizing the process. But maybe I’m just inclined to read a seventeen-year-old charitably. Or at least refrain from going to the internet to do the opposite.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Once you go to the WSJ and the Today Show, I think the internet becomes an appropriate venue for voicing disagreement and offense.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Going to the internet to respond to a seventeen year old would be juvenile, except that what she said (irrespective of her age) was printed in the WSJ.

                What do you think is a suitable forum to respond to her, if not the internet?Report

              • Avatar clawback says:

                Right, and as Nob and I indicated above, the question of why the WSJ published the piece would be an interesting discussion.

                But to answer your question, no public forum is appropriate for criticizing a 17 yo in the whinyentitledpetulant terms I see all through these comments. Really, now.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                The “why” seems related to her sister’s current or former employment. Which is remarkably beautiful given that she is utilizing her very real privilege to rail against her imagined lack of privilege.

                And, I’m sorry, but if you put yourself out there for the world to see, deliberately and knowingly, you have to accept the pushback. This isn’t HoneyBooBoo, getting trotted out on TV by her parents. This is a 17-year-old young woman, months shy of being able to vote, who took the time to pen a piece and seek an audience for it. It wasn’t some hasty Facebook scrawl or something she said in the moment that got caught on camera and went viral. She wanted these opinions to be known, she wanted to reach an audience, she wanted to cry out against what she perceived to be an injustice. And what better way for her to learn that, well, maybe she’s a bit off than to get constructive feedback such as what was offered by Ms. James.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen says:

                Kazzy’s comment is a more articulate version of why I’m ok with criticizing the author’s op-ed.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Forget about her age for a minute. If we didn’t know it, would the criticisms of what she wrote be justified?

                If so, tempering them given a realization of her age might be warranted. But to say that we cannot criticize what she wrote because of her age seems to me to get things exactly backwards.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Wow. That’s too much italics. Sounds like I’m shouting. Sorry bout that.Report

              • Avatar clawback says:

                I’m just saying we have to interpret what she wrote in the context of her age. The tone of the criticism here struck me; but again, I think by far the more interesting issues are a) that the WSJ chose to exploit an adolescent to advance their anti-affirmative action agenda; and b) the very real issues of elite college admissions she raised, whether or not she fully understands those issues.

                But hey, if someone wants to write more comments expressing surprise at an adolescent being self-centered, have at it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Is the WSJ anti-AA? If so, and if that was part of their motivation… ugh… shame on them.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen says:

                It was clear she was sending up the admissions process, I just don’t think she did a particularly good job.

                On her age I’m conflicted. When I was only a few months older then our author I had a lapse in judgment that has stuck with me for over a decade. On the one hand I understand that she is young and still gaining life experience, and consequently should be cut a little slack. On the other hand, the decisions we make at this age do have consequences, and she made a deliberate and (semi) well thought out choice to write and publish this piece (using her’s sisters position) in the WSJ.

                Maybe I’m being to harsh, I’ll have to think about it.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        “who wrote an op-ed piece for the WSJ blaming people of color for you not getting exactly what you wanted?”

        Well, not the writer of the op-ed piece.

        Seriously, the way people are talking about this you’d think the whole thing was “BROWN PEOPLE TERK MAH COLEDGE”.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          That’s not the WHOLE thing, but she did say…

          “For starters, had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet, and I would’ve happily come out of it. “Diversity!” I offer about as much diversity as a saltine cracker. If it were up to me, I would’ve been any of the diversities: Navajo, Pacific Islander, anything. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, I salute you and your 1/32 Cherokee heritage.”

          She led off with an attack on people of color and homosexuals.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            A hilarious attack, given that it presupposes that if she was one of those things, she’d have an advantage.

            This is not borne out by statistics, putting it mildly.Report

  10. You’ve got to be kidding me with that WSJ piece. Seriously, I’m embarrassed for Ms. Weiss.

    I didn’t get into my first choice school, either. It was a bit of a reach, and it stung a little bit to get rejected. Oh, well. I went with my second. (In retrospect, I knew far too little about my first choice school anyhow, and quite likely would have been miserable there.)

    If you can’t deal with the hard reality that you can’t always get what you want from life and must resort to high-profile whining and blaming others, I fear for your ability to handle what else life has in store for you.Report

  11. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Is it possible that Ms. Weiss didn’t get accepted by her first choices precisely because she’s the kind of person who, if denied acceptance, would write a whiny letter to the WSJ complaining about how unfairly the world has treated her ?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      This assumes a level of competence on the part of acceptance committees that, while comforting, isn’t *THAT* plausible.Report

      • I dunno. I think whiny entitlement is actually pretty easy to detect.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          It might have come across in her essay. That being said, a lot of the ivies have a lot of whiny entitled students going to them.Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            And if they have a lot of whiny entitled students, who no doubt constantly drive the faculty and staff batty, the admissions office would probably developed very sensitive radar for whiny entitled students. Handy tip: If the people in the admissions office likely despise a certain type of student, don’t peg yourself as one of them.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Is it possible this is all an elaborate prank somehow?

      I mean, really, her last name is “Weiss”? Come ON!Report

  12. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    I’ve only read the WSJ article and watched the short interview with Suzy Weiss, and she doesn’t come off that bad to me. The piece is tongue-in-cheek and meant to be a send-up of liberal cultural pieties that govern the kabuki of marketing oneself to universities. Pick a paper at random any day of the week and you’ll find a similar sub-Erma Bombeck attempt at humor by an adult columnist who is by now immune to self-consciousness. That’s the minor problem with Weiss’s piece: It’s not funny or insightful, and – I’m sorry – not particularly strong writing for a HS senior who has her heart set on a “name-brand” university.

    That leads to the major problem with the piece, which is that the WSJ’s editors thought that the mocking references to Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, having two moms, scooping up a suffering African child to polish your resume, etc., etc., were comedy gold. Weiss doesn’t come off as bitter, but is clearly unaware of the portrait she’s painting of herself as an entitled creep. That no one around her saw this makes me feel sorry for her.

    I’m not seeing how James’s piece is mean, either. The “white girls” trope didn’t faze me, and the more I go back and read it, the less I notice it. This isn’t a vindictive review of a first novel, it’s an angry reaction to a common, oblivious smear, written by a superior writer. James doesn’t spare pointing out that she didn’t have the luxury of blaming her failures on “diversity,” but she goes out of her way to identify with her targets. Let’s get a grip here: James, writing for, is commenting on a freaking Wall Street Journal column. It’s not like she plucked Weiss out of obscurity and held her up for ridicule.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      “Let’s get a grip here: James, writing for, is commenting on a freaking Wall Street Journal column. It’s not like she plucked Weiss out of obscurity and held her up for ridicule.”

      The WSJ and Today Show are obscure now?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Good comment. I’d just add that whether Weiss’ piece is viewed as a playful send-up of liberal values being part of the application process (wink-wink, nudge nudge), or a not-so-playful satire on liberal values corrupting the application process (wink wink, gut punch!), James’ response is entirely appropriate.

      Another thing: a person is only kidding around when both parties are laughing.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      “Weiss doesn’t come off as bitter, but is clearly unaware of the portrait she’s painting of herself as an entitled creep. ”

      Indeed, maybe the lesson that Weiss is learning from this isn’t “you’re an idiot” but instead “when white people say anything about race they’re automatically declared racists, and whatever the conversation was about before, it’s now about how white people are racists”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        A page search indicates the word “racist” used three times here… twice by you.

        Try again.

        Oh, and James used it just once, describing that such actions can make one come across as racist, but doesn’t go so far as to actually label any of the young women as such.

        So, try again AND try harder.Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

          “A page search indicates the word “racist” used three times here”

          Bro, you posted a link to a site called Racialicious, to an article which calls out “white girls” specifically in the title and a half-dozen other times in the article itself.

          Please do not make yourself look like an idiot by pretending like the line about diversity in Weiss’s letter has not been a huge part of why it’s gotten to be such a big deal.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            You realize that discussing the racial implications and undertones of something is different than calling people racist, right? Like, really, really, different, right? Because if you don’t, it is people like you who make it damn near impossible to talk about race in this country.Report

            • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

              “You realize that discussing the racial implications and undertones of something is different than calling people racist, right? ”

              Remember that post you did about how, when the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand your joke and they’re offended, then it’s your fault for failing to communicate properly?

              Why is it that when the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand how “you just said a racist thing!” is about the speech and not a personal attack, and they get offended, then it’s *their* fault for failing to *understand* properly?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            But wait! Aren’t you one of those people who thinks a person can be opposed to affirmative action without being a racist?

            People’s criticisms of Weiss are that she’s blaming AA (amongst other things) for not get into the school of her choice. Not that she’s a racist. See how that works?Report

            • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

              What possible reason could there be for her blaming AA other than racism? Why could anyone have a problem with AA that isn’t based in racism?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                For the record Jim there have been plenty of discussions of AA where people expressed problems with AA WITHOUT being accused of racism. I’ve seen those discussions other places. It happens. Not really an issue.

                What will lead to accusations is how the issue is discussed. Do i think the whiny ed writer is racist based on her shallow evidence free swipe at minorities: no, there is not enough evidence to make that accusation. But suggesting it would have been a sweet easy ride if she was one of those nifty minorities is going to make some people go “hmmm.”Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                So she’s not racist. Except that she is. Except that she isn’t. (but she kinda is.)

                “You sound like a racist” is not functionally different from “you are a racist”. Because why would you *sound* like a racist unless you actually *were* a racist?

                Oh, Weiss is clueless? Well hey, then what’s all the “white girls” hate-talk about? Obviously that phrase is very important to the writer who’s linked in the OP. If the critique of Weiss’s essay isn’t based in an accusation of racism then why is there so much focus on Weiss’s race?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Jim, you need to back off of this. You aren’t arguing with Random Liberal Somewhere. You are in a discussion with a lot of thoughtful, nuanced liberals who do not equate opposition to affirmative action with racism. I have myself expressed opposition to racism and have gotten virtually nothing but earnest and thoughtful replies.

                Weiss hasn’t been accused of racism. She’s been accused of being overly entitled and for blaming her disappointment on the wrong thing(s). That’s not the same thing as racism, expressed, implied, or otherwise.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Thank you, Will and Greg.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Sorta like that old cowboy film cliché: “You’re new around here, arncha?”

                Affirmative Action is its own problem. The largely unwritten rules for getting into a prestige school, being what they are, include legacies. Children of alumni get more points than those who aren’t. It’s not quite fair but that’s the way it is. Nobody rants about legacy admissions. Alumni give money to schools. They form important associations.

                AA could have avoided many years ago if a certain class of people had taken the 14th Amendment seriously and not created the race line. But since Bakke and Grutter v. Bollinger, AA has been under pressure. Lots of states have banned AA outright. Now everyone’s getting in on it Ricci v. DeStefano says the test can’t possibly be the problem.

                So what are you whining about here? That the legacy of past discrimination led to AA? Discrimination happens all the time, for reasons both good and bad. Only a “certain type” of person makes it into the Ivies.

                If AA is racism, it took into account the fact that no blacks were being hired. Nothing prevented them from being hired, they just weren’t. They didn’t fit the criteria for a “certain type” of person. So that reason was taken away for a while. But various states have seen fit to get rid of AA so they can go back to hiring a “certain type” of person. And if the current 5-4 cases are any guide, you won’t have to trouble yourself about AA.

                Eventually we’ll get the race line back, just as the 14th Amendment didn’t stop the rise of Jim Crow. It will not be called Jim Crow, but that’s what it will be. If resumes with names like LaTisha and Kishawn and Juan and Marta are routinely tossed in the trash — if AA is racism — and it just might be, for it really does account for race — the fact that those resumes are tossed in the trash is okay by you, eh Jim?Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                I think you all need to get your stories straight, because here’s two of you telling me that there totally are non-racist reasons to oppose AA, and then here’s this other guy saying that no it *is* only racism and therefore I’m obviously a racist.

                I do find it interesting that so many people apparently saw me write “I hate AA and I’m a racist”. I haven’t said anything about my personal attitude towards AA.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                This has been one of the strangest exchanges I’ve seen on the League. Basically, Mr. Heffman’s spent the entire thread trying to be outraged, only to have others point out that they’re not saying the outrageous things, at which point he reacts by trying to be outraged at the explanation of how the original outrage out was out of place. It’s almost surreal.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It’s almost surreal.

                It’s outrageous.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        There’s a beauty in that comment: anyone who disagrees with your claim has to demonstrate that accusations of racism aren’t what’s driving the criticisms of Ms Weiss. But that cannot be done! Like, it logically cannot be done. So it effectively derails the discussion, scores cheap political points, pisses off liberals and gives the appearance of providing you with the moral high-ground without ever actually making a concrete argument that could be defended or refuted.

        It’s the easiest, most brilliant form of trollery ever created!Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

          “anyone who disagrees with your claim has to demonstrate that accusations of racism aren’t what’s driving the criticisms of Ms Weiss.”

          krogerfoot seemed to manage okay.Report

    • Avatar Nathanael says:

      “The piece is tongue-in-cheek and meant to be a send-up of liberal cultural pieties that govern the kabuki of marketing oneself to universities.”

      I remember when writing the dreadful college application essays I decided *not* to send in the one about the time when I learned that kicking someone in the face was occasionally a very good idea. Even though it was the best one I wrote. So I kind of see the point about liberal cultural pieties…. that was a bit of self-censorship.Report

      • Avatar Nathanael says:

        (For reference, it was someone who’d been bullying me for about 6 months and had been reported to authorities repeatedly with no success. Somehow a few kicks in the face and the problem was solved…)Report

  13. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    “It’s not like she plucked Weiss out of obscurity . . . .” I mean Weiss has by far the higher-profile platform. If anyone is still saying that James has meanly singled a poor young girl out for criticism, they’re really missing an important part of the dynamic.Report