Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Connections, connections, connections

Stating the obvious again (after glancing through Kelvin's entry):

Three of the most elitist (and chummy old-boy-networked) employment sectors in the world U.S are: Academia, investment banking and management consulting. The majority of professors in my field of study hailed from only a handful of schools (where they got their PhDs) - you can count them in one-and-a-half hands. For the remainder who did not, they were most likely to have done their post-docs in one of them. The top i-banks and management consulting firms recruit actively from only about 10+ (< 20) schools in the country.

The entry points into these corridors of power, money and prestige are the universities. Hence the intense competition each year to get admitted into the top colleges.

Readers might want to get this book: The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges -- and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates. (The author Daniel Golden did a radio interview here.) This reminds me somewhat of the competition to enroll in the top primary schools in Singapore. How parents would 'volunteer their time' or 'donate monies' to the school(s) of choice in order for their kids to get a place, or through 'legacy' admissions (Phase II?).

The only truly 'meritocratic' elite universities in the US are probably the public schools, with the exception of a few private ones like Caltech and Cooper Union. Then again, why should 'academic merit' be the sole 'fair' criterion for admission? If it is, then probably 80% of RJC students would get offered places in the top US private schools every year (with their 4 As and high SAT scores).

Is the world fair? Of course not.

Dan's book had sparked a lively exchange here.

Two groups of people overwhelmingly bear the burden of these policies -- Asian-Americans and poor whites. Asian-Americans are the "new Jews", held to higher standards (they need to score at least 50 points higher than non-Asians even to be in the game) and frequently stigmatised for their "characters" (Harvard evaluators persistently rated Asian-Americans below whites on "personal qualities"). When the University of California, Berkeley briefly considered introducing means-based affirmative action, it rejected the idea on the ground that "using poverty yields a lot of poor white kids and poor Asian kids".

Further readings (scroll to the bottom), and The Economist's Poison Ivy.


L'oiseau rebelle said...

Rule #1 of employment: the person who gets the job is the person who the employer thinks is the best person for the job.

Applies to university admissions, etc, as well.

Companies and universities are populated with humans, not automatons (hopefully).

takchek said...

And humans are intrinsically biased.