How to Keep Out the Jews

In his review of sociologist Jerome Karabel’s new book, “The Chosen,” about the history of the admissions process at Harvard, Yale and Princeton, Malcolm Gladwell sheds some light on the rather curious relationship of these schools and Jews. After Harvard adopted a meritocratic admissions policy in 1908, a crisis arose:

By 1922, [Jews] made up more than a fifth of Harvard’s freshman class. The administration and alumni were up in arms. Jews were thought to be sickly and grasping, grade-grubbing and insular. They displaced the sons of wealthy Wasp alumni, which did not bode well for fund-raising. A. Lawrence Lowell, Harvard’s president in the nineteen-twenties, stated flatly that too many Jews would destroy the school: “The summer hotel that is ruined by admitting Jews meets its fate … because they drive away the Gentiles, and then after the Gentiles have left, they leave also.”
The difficult part, however, was coming up with a way of keeping Jews out, because as a group they were academically superior to everyone else. Lowell’s first idea—a quota limiting Jews to fifteen per cent of the student body—was roundly criticized. Lowell tried restricting the number of scholarships given to Jewish students, and made an effort to bring in students from public schools in the West, where there were fewer Jews. Neither strategy worked. Finally, Lowell—and his counterparts at Yale and Princeton—realized that if a definition of merit based on academic prowess was leading to the wrong kind of student, the solution was to change the definition of merit. Karabel argues that it was at this moment that the history and nature of the Ivy League took a significant turn.

Read on…

3 thoughts on “How to Keep Out the Jews

  1. Fantastic article! Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I really enjoyed theCanadian intro – let that be a lesson to you yanks!

  2. the elitest schools of the 1900’s discriminated against jews by virtual quotas. the elitest schools (joined by the u. of calif, u of michigan, etc.) discriminate against jews (and asians) by virtual quotas (e.g. affirmative action) in the 2000’s. the difference is that leftist jews support todays quotas. but then leftist jews support divestment, one state solutions, various fellow travelers of muslim and other anti semites. do we really have to love them?

  3. Interesting article. My father was subjected to admission quotas in engineering at the University of Toronto in the 1950s. I think he was the only Jewish engineering student in his class.
    I was denied admission to a top U.S. technical school based on (I think) my interview. This was in the early 1990s. The interviewer was a blue-blood type, lived in a gorgeous big house, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t visited Europe and didn’t play on a high-school sports team (my high school had almost 2,000 students).
    I ended up attending a good Canadian university, and many years later I received a Ph.D. from the U.S. school that had denied me admission as an undergrad. I was astonished, when I got there, at the importance of “legacy” at the school. The school tried very hard to bring in the children of graduates, and was proud of how many of them there were. I was also surprised to see the reactions of the undergrads who received Cs and Ds on their first mid-terms — true dejection. Then I realized that there had to be C-students everywhere, and that all these kids were used to being the overachievers in their classes, and to not having to work for an A.

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