Ross Douthat blames racist views of some rural whites on the admissions practices of eight elite colleges.

In his opinion piece in yesterday’s New York Times, Ross Douthat blames the racist and anti-immigrant views of some rural whites on the admissions policies of eight elite colleges.

In a masterpiece of specious reasoning and selective fact reporting, Harvard-educated Douthat declares that Pat Buchanan was right when he said that the American elite discriminate against white Christians.  Adding “rural” and “poor” to white Christians, Douthat then blames this discrimination for fomenting the attitudes of many rural whites.  With such scorn from the elite, it’s no wonder that the disenfranchised whites believe, as Douthat writes, “that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Marxist hand-picked by a shadowy liberal cabal, that a Wall Street-Washington axis wants to flood the country with third world immigrants…”

The linchpin of his argument is a conservative blogger’s analysis of a book-length study two Princeton sociologists did last year of the admissions systems of eight elite (read: Ivy) colleges.  According to the blogger, downscale, rural and working class whites needed higher SAT scores and grades to get into these exclusive colleges than minorities.

I could probably write a long chapter in a book on the errors in reasoning and outright deceptions that Douthat employs in this one Op/Ed piece.  Here’s a few “quick hits”:

  • Eight schools do not the ruling elite make.  Douthat uses these eight schools to represent the entire ruling class, much as some sports reporters once liked to use Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmiero to represent all major league baseball players.
  • Douthat keeps harping on the need for elite institutions to admit more rural students set to become farmers (to keep them from becoming gun-toting paranoids, he seems to suggest), but don’t these kids go to agricultural colleges?  Before pointing the finger Ross, check out the website or viewbook!  There are no agricultural departments at the eight elite schools of the survey.  Douthat should take a look at the “public Ivies” and see how many rural kids are going to their elite and rigorous ag schools like UC-Davis, Wisconsin and Washington (and others).
  • Douthat conveniently forgets to mention the studies that show that legacies get a bigger break than either African-Americans or athletes do in college admissions, that is that legacies have on average the lowest grades and SAT scores of any studied group.  A legacy, don’t forget, is someone who gets admitted because mom and dad and maybe granddad and greatgramps went to the college in question and have been giving it a lot of money for a long time.  Why doesn’t Douthat rail about the many places taken from deserving poor whites and given to legacies at Harvard and Princeton (and others) each year?

Why would the failure of elite schools to admit enough of the cream of the crop of the rural and working class white nation turn the larger population of all poor and rural whites against minorities and immigrants?  Elite educational institutions have always educated and been a special interest of the ruling wealthy elites, who have always been and remain to this day overwhelmingly white.  I think poor whites and rural whites know these facts.  Follow me carefully here: I didn’t accuse poor whites of racist views, Douthat did and excused them as well because not enough of them get into elite colleges.  The reasoning doesn’t stand up, since not getting into elite colleges for whatever reason, should turn poor whites against rich whites and not poor blacks.  That is, of course, until Douthat and his brethren get in the way and help these people connect their outrage to minorities and immigrants.

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