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A Confirmation, Albeit a Minor One

July 16, 2010

I don’t usually get mad — I don’t expect much of people.  I do get something more than peeved and something less than enraged when I see stuff like this, however.  In an essay on campus diversity, Russell Nieli describes a study of eight “highly competitive” colleges’ admissions processes:

But what Espenshade and Radford found in regard to what they call “career-oriented activities” was truly shocking even to this hardened veteran of the campus ideological and cultural wars. Participation in such Red State activities as high school ROTC, 4-H clubs, or the Future Farmers of America was found to reduce very substantially a student’s chances of gaining admission to the competitive private colleges in the NSCE database on an all-other-things-considered basis. The admissions disadvantage was greatest for those in leadership positions in these activities or those winning honors and awards. “Being an officer or winning awards” for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, “has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions.” Excelling in these activities “is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission.”

Espenshade and Radford don’t have much of an explanation for this find, which seems to place the private colleges even more at variance with their stated commitment to broadly based campus diversity. In his Bakke ruling Lewis Powell was impressed by the argument Harvard College offered defending the educational value of a demographically diverse student body: “A farm boy from Idaho can bring something to Harvard College that a Bostonian cannot offer. Similarly, a black student can usually bring something that a white person cannot offer.” The Espenshade/Radford study suggests that those farm boys from Idaho would do well to stay out of their local 4-H clubs or FFA organizations — or if they do join, they had better not list their membership on their college application forms. This is especially true if they were officers in any of these organizations. Future farmers of America don’t seem to count in the diversity-enhancement game played out at some of our more competitive private colleges, and are not only not recruited, but seem to be actually shunned. It is hard to explain this development other than as a case of ideological and cultural bias.

So if you’re applying to an elite private school — read: Ivy or Kudzu League — and you are in the FFA, 4-H, or ROTC, don’t include it on your application.  What’s even more maddening is that these universities are even more likely to turn their noses up at you if you’ve been a prominent member of one of those organizations.  That’s fits quite nicely with the idea that these schools don’t want their graduates to have anything to do with farming listed on their resumes.  Hey, good for you if you’re in the Future Business Leaders of America or if you’re in the damn Art Club, but we want no part of anybody who actually knows how to do anything with their friggin’ hands.

Of course, colleges can determine admissions standards however they want to — it’s probably true that the vast, vast majority of people who go to elite universities don’t end up doing things like manual labor, so there’s probably a reasonable case to make for this selection process, at least vocationally speaking.  But please: spare us the “diversity” horsecrap.  Everybody knows “prestigious” colleges aren’t looking for actual diversity.  They’re just looking for a politically correct reputation.

(Via Ramesh Ponnuru)

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