Askhanazim Jewry, g, and Higher Education

Askhanazim Jewry, g, and Higher Education

Jaschik, S. 2007. ‘The Power of Privilege.’ Inside Higher Ed. April 11, 2007. Available online:

A treasured friend & trusted reader sent this article in, which discusses possibly antisemitic reasons for the introduction of the SAT test in Yale University. The piece spends a lot of time on the quirks of the New Haven, Connecticut school, so I’ll just quote one part of it and talk in more general terms:

If colleges more closely understand their histories, Soares said, they might be more likely to adopt truly progressive policies today. His book ends with a series of recommendations along those lines, not just for Yale, but for other elite colleges. He calls for affirmative action policies based on socioeconomic status, a de-emphasis on standardized testing, and the elimination of preferences that defy true meritocracy (such as those for legacies and athletes).

Favoring athletes, he said, makes very little sense if talking about the social mission of higher education. Even at top universities, this has become “the doorway in,” and counter to the images many people have of athletics as a pro-diversity force on campuses, most of the beneficiaries are white. “What is it that athletics contributes to higher education? Why is it a part of higher education?” Perhaps showing the impact of his Oxford history, Soares noted that the admissions preferences offered by top American colleges make no sense to educators anywhere else in the world. “At Oxford and Cambridge, you are not going to be admitted just because you are good on the rugby field.”

Trying to discriminate against Jews by factoring in g (general intelligence would be odd, as Ashkenazim (“northern European”) Jews apparently have higher average g than most other races. This seems to be a result of intense selection pressure on Jews in the past thousand years, as cruel and mean regimes adopted policy after policy to limit Jewish mobility, wealth, and reproductive success. Average- and below-average Jews were selected against, while above-average Jews were selected for, by the European environment relative to other Europeans.

Thus, institutions of higher education used a variety of methods to keep Jews out, by defining merit as something other than general intelligence. From a century ago, Eastern universities used the idea of the “whole man” to discriminate against Jews. Because Jewish cultural traditional is relatively unathletic, Jewish history in Europe kept them seperated from the land and much physical exertion, and relatively higher rates of historical inbreeding (owing to ghetto living conditions), Jews were at a disadvantage under the “whole man” criteria. Likewise, modern affirmative action is a method of limiting the success of Jews and other market-oriented minorities.

See also: My series on feminism, leftism, and cash, covering the SAT and computer science.

5 thoughts on “Askhanazim Jewry, g, and Higher Education”

  1. Unfortunately, there's one problem you overlooked: rich alumni. If the stereotype is to be believed, what well-endowed donors want (breaks for their offspring or for talented athletes), well-endowed donors get.

  2. While I'm still rather (i.e. extremely) uncomfortable with the ideas you present about general intelligence being a quantifiable factor with racial implications, I can't help but wonder if the book's author was, in claiming that standardized tests were in part designed to keep the Jews out of the Ivies, merely attempting to appeal to an older Jewish audience who would likely be resistant to his ideas about socioeconomic affirmative action.

    I've seen socioeconomic affirmative action policies work before, but only when they've been applied for students whose lower grades or seemingly poor performance were genuinely the result of economic disadvantage. I suppose it's another issue where I'm sitting firmly on the fence. If applied and thought through, it works. If it's meant simply to turn discrimination on its head or flip it over, it's not going to work.

    And whoever suggested to you that Ashkenazim were historically endogamous? That's almost as bad as suggesting that the blood libel were true. 😉

  3. Sorry it's taking me a while to respond to things; the past few days have been rough.

    You seem to be looking as having two dimensions: academics and personal bias. I was pointing out that- if the popular stereotype has any legitimacy- there are other dimensions to this. For the record, I've never been within a thousand miles of an Ivy-League college, so the occasional news article is about all I have to go on with this; add salt accordingly.

    One dimension is money; alumni who make sizeable donations can pretty well get what they want. If this is correct, then the rate of change at one of these colleges will be slow until the alumni themselves decide they want a purely meritocratic admissions system, or the administration decides to show more backbone.

    Another dimension is the variability of what those alumni are actually interested in; while there probably are those motivated by racial bias, many are reputedly have other interests. Whatever the origin of the athletic tradition, many alumni are now concerned with the recruitment of good athletes because they want their teams to do well. And concern for the legacy system can stem as much from a desire to give one's offspring the same boost in life (prestige, connections, etc) oneself received early on.

    Like I said, I'm not Ivy-league, so my knowledge is third-hand at best. And I'm not defending these practices. I'm just pointing out that bias may not necessarily be the prime mover in the continuation of these traditions, at least not now.

  4. Michael,

    An extremely reasonable comment. In-group favoritism is a human universal, and doubtless a lot of these things is better explained as a group of people favoring themselves.


    Very good thoughts. In your opinion, why would an older Jewish audience tend to be against socioeconomic affirmative action? Would they be criticizing it, by and large, from a liberal or conservative perspective?

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