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A question about the racial experience at Harvard

A recent post looked at the hypocrisy of Harvard’s racist admissions policies. I want to look at what it teaches – not at what Harvard says but at what the actual experience it gives to its students teaches them.

1) Harvard invites students to attend a university – one of the halls of academia. By presenting itself as elite, it invites its students to think that academic ability, academic ways of thinking, are hallmarks (the hallmarks!) of an elite.

2) Having implied the importance of academic talent in overt and subtle ways, Harvard creates an artificial racial reality: it selects its asian-american students to average 140 Scholastic Aptitude Test points more that its white-american students. It selects its white-american students to average 130 SAT points more than its hispanic-american students. And it selects its african-american students to average 180 SAT points less than its hispanics, 310 SAT points less than its whites and 450 SAT points less than its asians.*

Thus Harvard gives members of each of these easily-distinguishable racial groups the routine experience of encountering a consistent, marked discrepancy between their group and other groups in precisely the area that the whole essence of being at Harvard implies is important, not just for gaining some academic degree but for being worthy to decide on politics, social mores, life in general. Day by day, the experience of being at Harvard teaches its students that, in the quality that matters, asians are typically superior, whites are typically normal, hispanics are typically inferior and blacks even more so. Harvard is a university – a pillar of academia, a place that implies academic is everything – and they chose the racial mix of their students to incarnate academic racial inequality.

3) Harvard also teaches that it is the most appalling sin, unspeakably evil and harshly-punished even when the evidence is slight or non-existent, for any student ever to refer in the slightest, most micro, most indirect way to this routinely-experienced reality that Harvard admissions has created. Students must not in any way betray that they have noticed any aspect or even distant side-effect of the artificial reality Harvard has created for them – and this of course compounds the artificiality of the Harvard reality.

So my question is: what does this experience in fact teach Harvard students?

In the early 1930s, workers in Kiev and similar cities frequently had to step over starving people and corpses in the streets as they walked to catch their trams for the daily commute, on which they could read newspaper articles about the “new, happy life” that collectivising agriculture had brought, or look at posters proclaiming “Life has become better, life has become more joyful – Stalin”. (The NKVD swiftly removed the man who, by adding a letter, changed the Russian to mean: “Life has become better, life has become more joyful – for Stalin.”) The few trustworthy reports of the time say the bizarre contrast between experienced reality and official propaganda (that one did not dare question) produced strange mental dislocations.

Harvard (thank God!) is a far lesser evil, but similar in this respect: students are immersed in an artificial reality – and then told it is a vile crime to betray the smallest symptom of having noticed it. Does anyone know anecdotes, or studies, of what the psychological effects of this are?


* That the differences are large is not open to honest dispute – which excludes many a PC commentator. Back in the 1990s, when this situation was less developed, Thomas Sowell (in e.g. “Race and Culture”) reported that the black-white discrepancy was well into the three-figure range while asian-americans had to average 50+ points above whites to have the same admission chances. Admissions discrimination against asian-americans, and for those minorities the PC like, appears to have grown since then. My figures above come from this article. The effect and its scale are clear; the precise SAT point values are debatable and vary (rather growing than diminishing) over time.

15 comments to A question about the racial experience at Harvard

  • CaptDMO

    Think of it like a golf handicap.
    Based on The Bell Curve.
    Of course, ALL members have to pay dues, greens fees, EXTRA for a golf cart, and whoever pays for drinks after the game depends on who sandbagged who on the course.
    Of course, SOME handicaps are WELL …cultured.

  • Eric

    IMO, the American university system is doing, on the whole, more harm than good. And it ain’t cheap.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Extraordinary posting, Niall. And Johnathan’s, to which you link, is excellent and well worth re-reading, which I’m glad I did.


    Your remarks on the Holomodor prompted me to think it could be entitled, “If This Goes On.”* Excellent historical example of the kind of indoctrination leading to a world in which notice of Reality is unthinkable to most and forbidden to all.


    *Gee, I wonder where that particular idea for a title came from. *g*

    –Given your last comparison, it sure suits how I’m feeling at the moment. :>(

  • bobby b

    “Day by day, the experience of being at Harvard teaches its students that, in the quality that matters, asians are typically superior, whites are typically normal, hispanics are typically inferior and blacks even more so.”

    If I represented Woke Harvard, I would say that we need to re-think the concept of the phrase “the quality that matters” – that the real quality that matters is making up for past racial inequities, and that everything else must be subordinate to that concern, including any idea of academic merit or value.

    The hard part of that argument, of course, is the inherent admission that the value of the product I’m selling isn’t accruing to the people who are paying me for it, and that I’ve reduced the “education” industry to “race whore”.

  • Paul Marks

    This went to court as it is illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to discriminate on the basis of race – which is what Harvard does.

    However, the “liberal” Judge just wiped his backside with the law and declared that Harvard had a “very fine” “admissions program”.

    Now a strict libertarian would say that Harvard has a right to be racist – but then it should not accept any government funding (including no government backed student “loans”) and it should be HONEST about its racism. And Harvard pretends to be radically ANTI racist – indeed teaches students that American society is horribly racist and evil, but that Harvard (and other places of the “Woke” rich) is leading the way out of the darkness of “capitalist racism” into the light of totalitarian collectivism, which will be non racist.

    In a way Harvard, Yale, Princeton (hello “Quota Black” Michelle “Becoming” Obama – as the lady later became) and the rest are telling the truth – for in the totalitarian collectivist future they are working for the races will indeed all be equal. Equally SLAVES. The “Woke” rich of Big Business think they will keep their personal wealth and luxury “life style” in such a totalitarian collectivist future (in the future they are working so hard to create) – they are mistaken. Just as the Duke of Orleans (the richest man in France – and “Citizen Equality”) was mistaken about the French Revolution – which he financed, and which murdered him.

    The children of leading politicians (and so on) have no problem getting into elite universities such as Harvard – regardless of how stupid and lazy those children happen to be. Which shows even more about the “very fine” admissions program. This will not save them when the “Social Justice” supporting “masses” really do take power – and, after all, that is what the “Woke” rich left say they want. They love MS13 and the other gangs (which have thousands of armed members) that take anything they want (wealth and human bodies) in Central America – and that will come to pass in the United States as well, for robbery, rape and murder is what “Social Justice” actually is. “But I have always supported you” will not save the rich leftists in their comfortable Corporate (and government) jobs (for one must have gone to a “good university” and “networked” to get such a Corporate or Government job – ability and productive work no longer having any connection to success in life) – and it is hard to see why it should save them.

    “Do not worry Paul – when people leave the universities they soon shrug off their “education” when they get out into the real world”.

    Do they? Then why to about half of the population think that “Hate Speech” (i.e. any speech that opposes the left) should be a crime?

    The control of education, the schools and the universities (or most of them), by the totalitarians is not some minor matter – and if the Democrats win in 2020 the courts (many of the judges are totalitarian “liberals” already) will soon agree that “Hate Speech” (i.e. any speech opposing the left) must be banned.

    No doubt the judge that upheld the racism of Harvard as “very fine” will think that mass censorship and totalitarianism is “very fine” as well.

  • Paul Marks

    “Why do the media not expose the institutional corruption of American institutions – such as the “elite” universities ?”

    The media do not expose the corruption because they are part of it – the media people get their jobs in the same way that other people get their jobs, by family connections (look who they are related or married to) and “networking”.

    “Networking” is a skill of a sort – it takes the cunning of a pig, but it is nothing to do with productive work (indeed “networkers” despise productive work and the people who produce productive work). It is like someone who thinks a park should pay its own way (as it used to) up against people who think that the way to run an amusement park is to “access funding authorities” (i.e. sponge off the taxpayers) – which side of such a conflict do you think the networkers will be on?

    Why should ABC (Disney), CBS (Viacom), NBC (Comcast), CNN (Time Warner) and PBS (government trust) be interested in exposing the corruption of Harvard and co? They are staffed by such corrupt people themselves – as are their parent companies (and the government bureaucracy).

    One might as well expect them to admit that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a moron (which she is), or to admit that her relative Gavin Newsom is a useless Governor of California who blames everyone else for the fires spread by the “environmental” regulations (“do not clear brush and trees – Gaia will be angry!”) that he has supported all his life.

    I ask again – when the Third World “masses” who they are importing (illegally) into California (and the rest of America finally turn on the “Woke” rich (which-they-will) – the people such as Nancy Pelosi and Gavin Newsom (and the “Woke” bankers and property developers and Silicon Valley totalitarians), why should anyone care?

    Perhaps, with the proper herbs and cooking, Nancy Pelosi and Gavin Newsom (and all the rest) will provide a tasty meal for the Third World “masses” they keep telling the world they love so much. If so then it will be the first useful purpose that Pelosi, Newsom (and on and on) have served in their existence. And the world certainly will not miss a few less “networkers” whose skill is in “accessing funding providers” (i.e. the looting the taxpayers).

  • Rob

    Does anyone know anecdotes, or studies, of what the psychological effects of this are?

    See Twitter

  • phwest

    My experience (Princeton, 1984) of what the Ivies tell their students is subtly, but importantly, different. The Ivies admit “the best and the brightest”, but those two words are not meant to describe one population, but rather two. It is the elite tech schools (MIT, Cal Tech in particular) that have the smartest student bodies, even the Ivies would acknowledge that. The Ivies are looking for the next generation of leaders (“Princeton in the nation’s service”), and you don’t recruit that solely on the basis of brains. The reason for this is obvious if you think about it – the long term health of the institution is based on the power and influence of its alumni, both directly, in terms of financial support, and indirectly, in that access to the alumni network is in large part what the Ivies actually sell. The students are well aware of this, and it starts with stuff as simple as identifying prominent alumni with their class year whenever they are mentioned in the school newspaper.

    Michelle Obama is in fact the perfect Ivy league recruit – from an up and coming political family with the potential to rise to a position of at least regional influence in Chicago (her brother was also a star basketball player, useful in a different way). The purely academic admits are actually more speculative bets for the school (the classic poor kid who made it big alum when I was there was Gordon Wu, a poor Hong Kong kid admitted on full aid in the 50s who gave the money for entire buildings) – and a lot of their value comes from leveraging the network, which is built on the rich and influential.

    None of this has ever really bothered me, and I was far more an academic admit than anything else. When it comes to life among human beings, generally there is a level of smart enough (probably around an IQ of 120 or so), beyond which other character traits are more important to actual success than incremental increases in intelligence. Acknowledging that in the admissions process to an elite university has always made sense to me, even the purely political parts of it. That’s just the way American society functions. That race gets tangled up in this as well is just another aspect of the situation. I was happy to see the court stay out of it, would be happier still to see courts extend this deference to more of American life.

    As a final note, I have found myself drifting further away from Princeton as time goes by, as it has changed significantly since I attended, and in not for the better as I see it. But that is true of many things.

  • Paul Marks

    phwest – so an intelligent and hardworking “Redneck” from (say) West Virginia, should be denied a place at Princeton so the less intelligent and less hardworking (see her thesis) future Michelle Obama can have a place.

    Well I believe that a private institution should have the right to as disgusting as they wish to be (as long as there is no government backing – direct or indirect) – but I also believe that people have the right to despise them for being disgusting. And Princeton, and so on, clearly deserve to be despised.

    The time will come (I hope) when having gone to an “elite” university will be a disadvantage (rather than an advantage) in the job market.

  • RRS

    Paul Marks; for your consideration:

    What we are observing here is the “institutionalization” of social “instrumentalities” as noted by Carroll Quigley in his classic “The Evolution of Civilizations” (pp. 101-103).[Reprint available at Liberty Fund]
    “Instrumentalities,” include those generated by society for the dissemination of information, analysis and learning. Quigley notes: ” Every such instrument consists of people organized in relationships to one another. As the instrument becomes an institution, these relationships become ends in themselves to the detriment of the ends of the whole organization.” He also observes: “But every such social instrument tends to become an ‘institution.’ This means that it takes on a life and purpose of its own distinct from [its originating function]; in consequence, the purpose of that [function] is achieved with decreasing effectiveness. In fact, it can be stated as a rule of history that ‘all social instruments tend to become institutions’ ” (bracket text added).

    Note the various relationships here, including in what most of our older, “prestigious,” instrumentalities; once for learning, then for teaching, now for administrated academic “services.”

    What now are the “ends” of what have become those several “institutions,” shaped by the development of the relationships (internal & external; social & political) of those once fruitful “instrumentalities?”

  • I appreciate the information, phwest (October 27, 2019 at 3:04 pm). As I hope my OP phrasing showed, I do not think that academic ability is the be all and end all, or that it gives any special, or even any especially equal, ability to ‘pontificate about political or social matters’. But I do think an academically-oriented style is implied at any university, and more in one claiming to be an elite, and that a difference of hundreds of SAT points is, as Thomas Sowell commented, ‘very large’ and noticeable in that environment.

    Networking is indeed something the ivies are selling, nor are they the first ever to do so. (But, trivially,

    identifying prominent alumni with their class year whenever they are mentioned in the school newspaper

    is standard for most schools and universities, even those who must make the most of the fewer prominent alumni they have, so it means nothing in itself.)

    Your point about Michelle Obama’s political connections is well-taken and can be usefully compared and contrasted with past cases. Eton and Harrow took the sons of lords and grandsons of dukes without demanding quite the academic abilities of scholarship boys – famously Churchill, who described his Harrow Entrance Examination thus:

    I wrote my name at the top of the page. I wrote down the number of the first question – ‘1’. After much thought I put brackets around it thus – ‘(1)’. But after that I could not think of anything connected with the question that was both relevant and true.

    However the idea of academic knowledge being what knowledge was, was not absent even from the old English public schools, who pushed it far less. For example,

    “There is no need for your son to go into the army. He is really quite intelligent.”

    was written by the headmaster of Winchester to the future General Wavell’s father. (And these are schools – innately much less academically-oriented than universities.)

    generally there is a level of smart enough (probably around an IQ of 120 or so), beyond which other character traits are more important

    That is of course precisely the claim Harvard makes to defend its discrimination – that Asian-Americans, despite their academic skills, are not admitted because they just don’t have the other character traits. The same was said – less aggressively because no laws made it necessary to make it a legal claim – about the Jews whom Harvard quota’d a while back. (The same idea was known in England – George Orwell, in his essay on anti-semitic feeling in the England of his youth, wrote that

    “The Jew was seen as superior in brains but inferior in ‘character’.”

    but FWIW I’m not sure it was as hard to get in, once the desired quota of dukes’ sons had been met – it helped that there weren’t that many of them. 🙂 )

    This gives rise to two obvious questions:

    1) Do you think the quota’d Jews of a century ago really did (statistically) lack character relative to their gentile competitors for admittance to Harvard?

    2) Did you observe in your time at Harvard that the chosen admission-process-contrived academic racial discrepancies were indeed matched by inverse character discrepancies (these also being, by Harvard’s legal claims, so chosen and contrived)? Statistically, were the Asian-Americans the ones who tended to be found lacking in character and the African-Americans the ones who disproportionately had sterling characters?

    Your point that other things can matter more than academic ability, and even more than academic styles, prejudices and etc., is not one I’d contest for a moment – and I think these other things can dominate at IQs below 120. But was the counterbalancing racially-chosen character discrepancy (that Harvard’s legal defence implies) what you observed, or were the Asian-americans in fact being being doubly quota’d, or what?

    [All quotes from memory]

  • Revelation

    I wont comment on Jewish “character” but would note that when the policies that discriminated against Jews were abandoned, and the character of Harvard changed, there was sudden a massive shift to the other extreme.


  • Fraser Orr

    It is worth point out what 450 points on the SAT test actually means. I’m pretty familiar with the test since one of my kids is in the process of applying to college. Those of you for whom that is not true might not be aware that the top score in SAT is now 1600 not 2400 like it used to be. Math makes up half that grade. But the math they expect from students in SAT is roughly what Americans would call in the standard math sequence here, Algebra 1. Which is to say roughly what a good high school would teach a good student in 9th grade (approximately 14 years old.)

    So to get 1150 (1600 minus 450) on the SAT means that you are getting roughly a C in 9th grade math, and roughly the equivalent in language arts and getting the same acceptance level as a kid who is getting straight As in calculus.

    To say that is a “big difference’ is the understatement of the year.

  • Revelation (October 28, 2019 at 12:00 am), thank you very much indeed for the link. The (long!) article has much information and reflection. Based on e.g. Sowell’s “Migrations and Cultures”, I think Thomas Sowell would read the article (perhaps has read it) with interest – which from me is no slight praise.

    The very beginning is relevant to my comment (October 27, 2019 at 10:26 pm) discussing phwest’s comment.

    Each year, Harvard admits just 1600 freshmen while almost 125 Harvard students now face possible suspension over this single incident [of exam cheating]

    If Harvard’s discounting of academic ability by character were valid, the guilty should be disproportionately asian-american students, whereas if that were not even false but something of an inverse then they would disproportionately not be asian-americans.

    However the article is full to the brim of other information relevant mainly to Johnathan’s post but also shedding light on mine. I’d suggest any reader strongly interested in my post or Johnathan’s read it through.

    For those lacking the time (it is longish), I will brutally restrict myself, out of the many remarks that interested me, to a quotation that occurs nearer the end than the beginning

    Near the beginning of her book, Hernandez explains that over half of Ivy League admissions officers are individuals who had not attended such academically challenging universities, nor probably had the intellectual capability to do so, and were sometimes confused about the relative ranking of SAT scores and other basic academic credentials. She also cautions students to avoid any subtlety in their essays, lest their words be misunderstood by their readers in the admissions office, whose degrees are more likely to have been in education than in any serious academic discipline.

    According to Steinberg, admissions officers seem to assume that an important part of their duty is maximizing non-white enrollment, and this is especially true if they themselves are non-white, while there is no indication that they are actually aware of America’s overall population distribution.

    🙂 (My emphases)