James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, January 04, 2013

Meritocracy and Lotteries

Ron Unz, publisher of The American Conservative magazine, published a lengthy article on admissions to elite American universities

It's a good read, and may be worth your time investment. Substantial statistical data is supplied.

Here's my summary...

1. Asian-Americans dominate high school classrooms academically.
2. Because of this, they are "over-represented" in elite universities according to racial/ethnic groups.
3.And yet they are still "under-represented" if academic "merit" mattered the most in the Ivy League (Harvard, Yale Princeton, Columbia, Penn, Dartmouth, Cornell, Brown).
4. In more meritocratic places like MIT and the elite California public universities, Asian-Americans constitute numbers proportionate with their academic achievement.
5. Throughout the last few decades, American Jews have constituted about 25% of Ivy League students despite being about 2.5% of the population and falling..
6. And yet, over the last 10-15 years, high school achievement from Jews has fallen sharply.
7. Gentile whites and Asians aren't being "robbed" of admission to the Ivy League schools because of "affirmative action" helping blacks and Hispanics, but mainly because unqualified Jews are getting in -- the exact opposite of what was transpiring 80-90 years ago in those schools.
8. Ethnic/racial bigotry in the Admissions Offices are probably not to blame, but that their staff is underpaid, unqualified, ignorant, and possibly prone to bribes.

Unz, himself Jewish, proposes a novel plan. Elite colleges should reserve a percentage of admissions for the "best of the best" academically. For all others who would qualify academically but aren't "elite,"use a lottery system to determine admission.

This would relieve such students from over-achieving at everything in high school just to have an "impressive" application. You may play basetball and be on the debate team, but you don't also have to be Student Body President and run the Chess Club as well. One wouldn't have to be "all-everything" or have an inspirational life story to get accepted. One could enjoy youth.

It would also remove a lot of subjectivity from the process. The admissions offices would be less sloppy and corrupt. And students wouldn't take it personally if a particular elite school doesn't accept him or her.

I wonder if Human Resources departments in companies (and universities, for that matter) could operate the same way. When hiring, favor the clearly most qualified, but if there are numerous qualified applicants, just select some resume's by "lottery" for the interview process.

This, in turn, would remove much of the possibility of someone being discriminated against, in which the name may indicate gender or skin color.

That may be the most ethical way to hire someone: every qualified person gets a fair shot.


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