This is not the kind of argument many on the political left find appealing. In tax policy, for example, such reasoning — the idea that short-run inequality can bring longer-run benefits — is often derided as “trickle-down economics.” And yet virtually any fan of the Ivies has to embrace this idea. The best defense of the admissions policies of America’s most prestigious universities is a right-leaning argument that they are deeply uncomfortable with.
So instead they tie themselves into knots to give the impression that they are open and egalitarian. To boost their image, minimize lawsuits and perhaps assuage their own feelings of institutional guilt, America’s top schools adopt what are known as DEI policies, to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
The “inclusion” part of that equation is hardest for them to defend. Top-tier universities accept only a small percentage of applicants — below 4% at Stanford last year, for example. How inclusive can such institutions be? Everyone knows that these schools are elitist at heart, and that they (either directly or indirectly) encourage their students and faculty to take pride at belonging to such a selective institution. Most of all, the paying parents are encouraged to be proud as well. Who exactly is being fooled here?