Ross Douthat wrote a fascinating column for the NYT yesterday called “The Roots of White Anxiety,” in which he explored how the admissions process at elite private universities, aided by affirmative-action policies, tends to make white, working-class students a minority in those theoretically diverse student bodies.
Nieli highlights one of the study’s more remarkable findings: while most extracurricular activities increase your odds of admission to an elite school, holding a leadership role or winning awards in organizations like high school R.O.T.C., 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America actually works against your chances. Consciously or unconsciously, the gatekeepers of elite education seem to incline against candidates who seem too stereotypically rural or right-wing or “Red America.”
Maybe it’s best that I didn’t bother applying to Harvard. I was president, secretary, and news reporter for several years in my local 4-H club, and was secretary for a couple years in the county 4-H Junior Leaders as well…. besides being one of the 4-H Members of the Year just into my freshman year at college.
Douthat goes on to say that this phenomenon has caused liberals and conservatives to lose touch with one another and get paranoid. (Seriously. He’s the one who brought up paranoia.) A bit of a stretch, but a plausible one, I suppose.