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Hardcover The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton Book

ISBN: 0618574581

ISBN13: 9780618574582

The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton

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Book Overview

A landmark, revelatory history of admissions from 1900 to today--and how it shaped a nation The competition for a spot in the Ivy League--widely considered the ticket to success--is fierce and getting... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A wonderful book about disgusting behavior

As a graduate of Harvard College, I can say I am more embarrassed than usual to admit it after reading Karabel's book. Karabel lays out in great detail the slimy admissions practices of the "top" Ivy colleges. Today's sub rosa selection process was born of anti-Semitism and carried on well into the middle of the 20th century. When I applied they required pictures, just to make sure the "coons," as one Ivy official referred to Blacks, got special Jim Crow treatment. Now that era is passed, and the Asians wonder if there is a quota for them. The college officials cry, "Goodness, No !" Yet they continue to favor the children of the same alumni who were chosen as a result of the now decried previous discriminatory policies. (See George W. Bush). Then they call that "fair." After reading this book one will be convinced once again never to believe them. The irony is these colleges deliver only mediocre educations to underclass students.

A great, and surprising, history makes a great gift to Ivy League grads

This is one of the best academic works I have ever read, and worth purchasing just for the treasure trove of research findings mined from the archives of Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Those findings are presented in a manner that would do any advocate proud -- by letting them speak for themselves in a very well organized fashion, Karabel makes them utterly compelling. It really should be required reading for anyone seeking to be a historian, as well as for all secondary schools seeking admission to an elite university (and their admissions counselors). The taxonomy of the book, by era and theme, is the key -- and it is not something that you will want to sit down and read from cover to cover. But it rewards reading in essay fashion, starting with era and issues, most important to you -- and you can move back and forth within it quite easily to follow the threads or themes of most interset to you. I purchased this in Harvard Square as my daughter visited colleges in her senior year of high school -- 30 years ago I attended one of these schools, and found the research findings (the writing can best be described as sufficient and workmanlike) to be like a series of epiphanies that explained much of what I did not understand when I attended. Schools, driven by a class system, now driven by a need for funds and for smart students, caught up in a kind of "parallel play" in their competition for students. Rank, articulated discrimination against applications of different stripes -- Jews, blacks -- public school kids. Biases in favor of alumni children, or those who could help with funding. For all the good these schools have accomplished, this book, with its fabulous documentation, rips the cover off the fabulous hypocracy that has characterized the admissions process to so many schools, with appropriately deluded alumni. Read it, and conclude, that your own sense of self worth does not (or should not) depend upon where you went, or where your child should go.

6 stars, absolutely stellar!

I was absolutely riveted to this book for 3 weeks. I read every single one of those footnotes that was more than a bibliographical entry, as well. Why? Because Jerome Karabel has taken a fairly esoteric subject and made it interesting, important, revealing, "juicy" and downright enjoyable. Karabel shows how the current admissions policies of the Big Three (Harvard, Yale and Princeton) came about in trying to restrict admissions by the "wrong kind," namely Jews, in the 1920s. He follows the policies, unstated rules, and goals of the three colleges' admission departments to the end of the 20th century, covering outright racism, minority outreach, coeducation, the restrictions on Asians that paralleled the earlier ones on Jews (that never quite went away), and most of all, the search for academically qualified students who were capable of paying their way. Karabel' discovered that the Big Three worried over the number of students with high SATs who also had family income sufficient to pay their tuition. Coeducation was not done in the name of women's liberation but to increase the limited wealthy applicant pool, and also to prevent desireable male students from attending other co-ed schools. As one of The Chosen (Princeton '82), I often wondered why the Admissions Office made the decisions they did. Karabel went into the nuts and bolts of how all three of the college's Admissions Offices worked their way through an increasing number of applications. Why were 6 applicants admitted from my college-prep school but only 1 or 2 from the nearby public schools with four times the class size? Was Princeton still engaging in their "Docket" game, where all the public schools throughout New York and New Jersey were only alloted the same number of admissions spots as just Andover and Exeter? And I was alternately delighted and shocked to find Karabel had unearthed quite a bit on the gatekeeper to our admissions. John Thatcher was the Alumni Schools Committee rep who not only interviewed every one of 300 applicants from my county, but also was one of the "alumni in revolt" who joined together to form Concerned Alumni of Princeton. Thatcher served as their pointman on Admissions issues, especially noting the decline of legacy admits. Letters from CAP members to the official alumni magazine suggested nostalgic bigots who could not deal with the influx of Jews, minorities and women to what they still thought of as a private country club. The CAP publication Prospect, distributed to all campus residents, beat those drums for years. It took them almost 10 years to realize that coeducation meant that alumni could have their daughters attend and this could be a good thing. It is unfortunate this book was published right before Samuel Alito's CAP scandal hit the news, as Karabel gives some great background on this group and a similar group at Yale. This is investigative journalism with detailed history, inspired conclusions, and enough context for

Superb social history of America's 20th Century

Never met Karabel, though I did admissions way back a decade after mid-century, and know most of the folks he quotes and profiles, and know the issues faced. I saw the atrocities and hints of better paths to social equality, as practiced in the three colleges he uses as a focus. Jerome Karabel, younger a bit than I, has compiled what stands as a full "social history," an inside look at how what we prefer not to call a class system (with bias, bigotry, discrimination, even virtues rewarded) characterized our recent past--and continues. Karabel's precise and factual; the good and bad show up in the work of selecting students for a college some while rejecting very strong other students (a pretty crazy practice, justified with much defensive rhetoric). But the good and bad practices have persisted, ebbing and flowing, very bad in the 1920s, not very academically oriented in mid-century, perhaps peaking with the positive movements in the late 60s and early 70s, only to level and then decline at century end. Without indexing "Iraq," "CIA," "WMD," "blue and red states," Karabel provides enough material to initiate the needed National Public debate that might push at least one of political parties toward, indeed, a reasonable and enlightened 2008 Presidential Platform. We can hope. John Osander, Director of Admission, Princeton 1965-1971

Choosing the best and the brightest

One of the great rituals and testing grounds of American life comes in one's junior year of high - school when one begins collecting the recommendations, the personal essays, the college- board scores for application to college. The dream of many middle - class American parents is that their children will enter an elite university, and thus have a real leg up on the future. In this pioneering study three most elite universities, Harvard, Yale and Princeton are studied in regard to their admission's policies. And the myth of the complete objectivity of the selection process is seriously undermined. For there are other factors involved in the choice including family 'legacy' and ' money' and these mean that the children of the elite have a far greater chance of being part of the elite than do the children of the 'man- on- the street'. Karabel shows how prior to the twenties admissions was a matter of passing a fairly simple written test. But that when Jewish students multiplied the Admissions people introduced measures to restrict their numbers. The whole complicated business of recommendations, personal essays etc. was introduced for the purpose of keeping the elite universities as Wasp as they could be. However with time 'demands' changed, and admissions policies were generally adjusted to meet the needs of their time. As Adam Kirsch writes in his perceptive review of this book in 'The Sun'. "As he takes the story of Big Three admissions through the upheavals of the 1960s, the rise of coeducation, and the controversies over affirmative action, Mr. Karabel insists that the way the universities defined merit always depended on the kind of student body they hoped to attract. When they wanted rich WASPs, merit meant character; when they wanted future Sputnik designers, it meant brains; when they wanted higher minority enrollment, it meant diversity. The only constant, Mr. Karabel concludes, was money: Today, like a hundred years ago, the vast majority of students at elite colleges are from affluent homes. Not unless the class barrier were dismantled could a perfect meritocracy, so crucial to the promise of American life, become a genuine possibility." Nonetheless it seems to me it is clear that 'merit ' does play a considerable part in the Admissions policies of Elite universities. The tremendous rise in the number of Asian students in American Universities comes not because they have alumni parents, or because those parents are of the Fortune 500 , but rather because the young people worked harder, and achieved more. This book is a detailed , comprehensive study of a major issue in American life. And for anyone truly concerned to know how the best and brighest are chosen it is a must read.
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