Wanna get into Harvard? Just ask your parents to donate a building

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/10/19/double-secret-probation.html


I mean, it’s weird that they lie about it, this seems like a Best Kept Secret. I can’t really get too alarmed that an old, private, expensive, social-status-obsessed institution favors its aristocratic base in a baldly quid-pro-quo fashion. I mean, yes, if I were king of the USA I would abolish this kind of shenanigans with one decree. The real problem, though, seems to be the strange swirl of social, political, aesthetic and mythical benefits aside from quality-of-knowledge/preparation tied to attending specific institutions of higher ed. Those people paying for admission aren’t paying for quality of education, they are investing on the insider track social and political capital. I mean, what social and political club don’t you buy your way into, indirectly or directly?


Predicts a “shocked, not shocked” Fry gif in 3…2…1…

(And I’ve got a spare garden shed around here somewhere, will that do as a “building”?)


I don’t think that trying to keep it “secret” is so much about protecting the university as it it about preserving the sense of entitlement in those that benefit from it. Witness Kavanaugh’s insistence that he got into Yale only because of his hard work, rather than because he went to one of the right prep schools, or the fact that he was a legacy from his grandfather.





American universities are trash, if only because everything is trash. The idea of a meritocracy based on university attendance is weird, and not at all sustainable. If you look at a country like South Korea, where something like 70% of youth attain post-secondary education, what you find is that all that happens is the jobs requiring university degrees become massively undervalued.

And what do universities offer in terms of actual education? Largely didactic programs that only prepare you for relevant further training in the real world. (I’m setting aside the more formative benefits of post-secondary education in the context of meritocracy,) Education as an auxiliary to social mobility is inherently limited by the fact that social mobility is limited by societal strictures. As much as I love the Bern, free college is a stop-gap solution to a larger problem. University level education is already starting to take on the character of its inevitable fate: High school for grown-ups.


So, if this is the way you buy your way into Harvard, I guess you’re rich enough to never need to have been to Harvard anyway?


It seems that this has been common knowledge all my life.


Ivy league schools seem to take the bright students of humble origins, and mix them in with the rich dunces. The dunces are then mistaken for being bright. I always think about George W Bush, the rich dunce from Yale.


So you’re telling me there’s a chance?


So? Does anybody really see a problem with this? Presumably lots of students and faculty benefit from getting a free building. How many free buildings are they getting each year? 5? 10? It doesn’t make a difference to anybody.


The idea of widespread worship of a private institution always strikes me a deeply weird. Why do Americans choose to make Yale the annointers of the American nobility?

I think the real question is not “Are the annointers fair?”, but “Why have we chosen to make them the annointers?”

Still now that Americans are in this mind set, the other question is that given that the worship is entirely voluntary (no-one forces Americans to assume that Yale students are near super-human), how do you persuade an populace that Yale is simply a good university rather than this quasi-mystical creator of the leaders of tomorrow?

Even this article grants Yale its super-power by assuming that Yale, unlike any other university, has some sort of responsibility beyond being just another private school.

The few Yalies I’ve met seem capable and to have gotten a good education, but not more so than a graduate from any other country’s top-level universities, and those institutions don’t have anything like the lock on the mindset of its population (perhaps with the possible exception of the Grand Ecoles of France? Anyone from France willing to chip in?).


The key to a good education is winning tonight’s Mega Millions.


A batch of internal Harvard admission-related emails HAS come into the public domain




This one is so obvious that I don’t think could possibly be considered “news”.

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And THAT is what scholarships are FOR. Don’t get me wrong, the Ivy’s do offer a good education, but so do many other universities. It’s not so much about where you go, but what you do when you get there. But letting the scholarship students into “the club” makes entrance into that club look like more of an accomplishment that it is, at least for the truly wealthy.

We have been suffering from the worst sort of cause/effect confusion. Because college graduates have historically earned more than non-college graduates, we have encouraged college on a higher percentage of the population. The result has been that college degrees are required for a much higher percentage of jobs that used to be the case. But that has not changed the NATURE of the work required, or how well renumirated it is. So now a college degree is often the border line between barely employed and low level administrative, or even decent retail work. While in the old days it was likely to put you into a management track.

Of course the Ivys have pretty much always been for the children of the 1%ers leavened with some very smart kids from the upper 20%ers.


As for the headline, if I had asked, I could have gone to Harvard?

Just FTR, I was in agony to choose my path of life after school. That I ended up studying biology and choice of university were in a way accidents.

People who have parents which tell them to go to Harvard (and donate buildings for that purpose) must have a blissfully boring life.
No wonder the search the excitement of ruining everyone else’s.

Ok, that’s unfair.
Nearly everyone else’s.


How do you think Jared Kushner got into Harvard College—his intellect? Nope.