Harvard linguistics professor Steven Pinker argues that while Ivy League colleges definitely aren’t meritocracies, they still represent good opportunities for students and their families. Responding critically to William Deresiewicz’s “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” Pinker says that if you survive the admittedly strange admission process, you absolutely should send your kid the Ivy League. Of Harvard, Pinker writes:
“The lucky students who squeeze through this murky [admissions] bottleneck find themselves in an institution that is single-mindedly and expensively dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. It has an astonishing library system that pays through the nose for rare manuscripts, obscure tomes, and extortionately priced journals; exotic laboratories at the frontiers of neuroscience, regenerative medicine, cosmology, and other thrilling pursuits; and a professoriate with erudition in an astonishing range of topics, including many celebrity teachers and academic rock stars.”
Pinker goes on to defend the ability of standardized tests to measure academic aptitude and blames the likes of Malcolm Gladwell for creating the culture of suspicion that has grown up around them. Having highly selective universities that are true meritocracies would be good for students and good for the nation, it would mirror the selection processes of Europe which match students early with their strongest skill, and it would demystify the admissions process that currently has so many people upset at otherwise good-intentioned institutions.
In his Big Think interview, Pinker assesses the state of academic departments across America:
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