Showing posts with label Jonathan Gruber. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jonathan Gruber. Show all posts

Monday, December 1, 2014

If you have the right credentials, it's not hard to get into an elite college. But why would you want to do that?

All across America, middle class high-school students are sweating over college applications. If only I can get into an elite college, young people tell themselves, I will make the right connections, get in the right graduate school, marry the right person, and become wealthy.  In short, a lot of high-school students are telling themselves that their lives will be better if they attend a fancy school back east than if they go to the nearby state university.

They shouldn't worry so much. If they have the right credentials--beginning with a very high SAT or ACT score, they are most certainly going to get into a prestigious college. That is the message that Kevin Carey delivered in a recent New York Times essay.  According to Carey, 80 percent of applicants with combined SAT scores of at least 1300 or above and who applied at several institutions will get into at least one elite college.

As Carey explained:
Since there has never been a time when 100 percent of well-qualified students were successful in the college admissions market, the truism that elite colleges are far more difficult to crack than in years gone by can't be correct: 80 percent is too close, mathematically, to nearly everyone.
It's true of course that admission rates at elite colleges have been heading downward, but that is largely because more people are applying to the top-tier schools.  Many applicants will be winnowed out after only a quick glance by pitiless admissions officials. But the applicants with high SAT scores and at least one other attractive attribute (musical talent, outstanding athlete, minority status, etc.) will likely get in somewhere.

What does the perfect Ivy League applicant look like? Meet Kwasi Enin, who received acceptance letters from all eight Ivy League colleges.  That's right: Kwasi was admitted to Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, Penn, Cornell, and Princeton. He scored in the 96th percentile on his SAT, plays three musical instruments, threw the shot put on his high school track team, and volunteered at a hospital. Kwasi's achievements are remarkable, especially when one considers that he is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Ghana.

You may not have all the attractive attributes that Kwasi Enin has; but if you have some of them--starting with a very high SAT score--you are likely to be accepted by at least one top-tier college.

Nevertheless, before you decide to go to an elite American college, you should ask yourself two questions:

How will I pay for my elite college education?

 First, you should ask yourself how you plan to pay for the privilege of attending an elite college.  Ivy League schools now charge around $50,000 a year for tuition, room and board.  It is true that the actual price is often a lot less than the sticker price. You might be offered a financial aid package that will reduce your costs substantially. But unless you have credentials like Kwasi Enin, you are probably going to take out some loans to attend Ivy League U.

So before you say yes to an admissions offer at a fancy East Coast school, ask yourself how much debt you are willing to assume for the right to wear a Dartmouth sweatshirt.  How will you manage a debt load of say $100,000 if you don't get a good job after you graduate or if you go on to graduate school and take on even more debt?

Do I want to become the kind of person that elite schools are producing?

Second, ask yourself an even more important question. Do you want to become the kind of person that our nation's elitist institutions are turning out? Without question, most of the people who teach in  our nation's most prestigious colleges are postmodernists. In other words, they are relativists and secularists. Most professors and administrators who populate our top-tier universities believe there are no ultimate human values and that all values are shaped by self interest or by race, class, and gender. And most of the people who work in our elite colleges are atheists.

Of course it is possible to be an atheist and still care deeply about other people. In fact, most atheistic academics will make that claim. Many prefer to call themselves humanists rather than atheists because the word humanist conjures up a picture of a warm and caring person.  But in my experience, most of the people who don't believe in God are materialists. After all, one has to believe in something in order to avoid nihilism; and a great many atheists have made material things their god.

In addition, I have observed that most postmodernist academicians have another characteristic--they are disdainful of people with traditional American values. Having embraced materialism, atheism and relativism, many postmodernists are contemptuous of  ordinary Americans.

MIT professor Jonathan Gruber is a prime example of elite-college arrogance. He bragged publicly that the Affordable Care Act that he helped design only passed Congress because the American people were too stupid to realize what the law would cost them.

As for the secularist leanings of the nation's most prestigious colleges, it is no accident that some of our most elite institutions have driven Christian student groups off campus even as they appoint atheist chaplains.  That's right--some of our most exclusive and expensive colleges--Harvard, Stanford, and Tufts, for example--have atheist chaplains.  They aren't called atheists, of course; that would be too transparent. Most of these folks call themselves "humanist chaplains." You should check it out. The Harvard humanist chaplain, Greg Epstein, and his Stanford counterpart, John Figdor, have both written books that promote atheism.

So here's the bottom line. Before enrolling in a prestigious and expensive private college, come to terms with two realities: First, you will probably have to borrow a lot of money to get an elite-college degree. Second, you will spend at least four years immersed in an arrogant and materialistic postmodern culture that has rejected religion and is disdainful of traditional American values.

If you accept these two realities and still want to to attend an elitist private college, I say go for it.  

Greg Epstein: Good Without God at Harvard

Lex Bayer & John Figdor.  Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart: Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the 21st Century. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Kevin Carey. The Truth Behind College Admission. New York Times, Sunday Review Section, p. 2.

Frank Eltman. Suburban NY Student Picks Yale Among All 8 Ivies. Huffington Post, April 30, 2014. Accessible at:

Greg Epstein. Good Without God: What A Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe.   New York: Harper Collins, 2009.

Martha Ross. Making case for atheism's friendlier, humanist face. Baton Rouge Advocate, November 29, 2014.

Friday, November 21, 2014

America's Journey into the "Heart of Darkness": MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, Elite Universities and Obamacare

 Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad's tale of one man's journey up a mysterious river into the heart of Africa, is one of those books that has embedded itself in America's postmodern psyche. How many high school students have written theme papers on Conrad's book? How many professors have crammed  Heart of Darkness down the yawning throats of indifferent sophomores imprisoned in mandatory English courses?  How many scholars have quoted the book's most famous line--"The Horror! The Horror!"--and opined on the book's rich commentary on colonialism, racism, and existential doubt?

At its core, however, Heart of Darkness is about greed. The people who ravished Africa in the late 19th  century and who people Conrad's book had nothing more in mind than making money.  Conrad described a group of European adventurers encamped on the bank of an African river as "sordid buccaneers" whose talk was "reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage . . ." When the character Marlow asks an accountant why he took a job that landed him in an African jungle, he scornfully replies, "To make money, of course. What do you think?"

I  thought about Heart of Darkness recently as I read the news about Jonathan Gruber, the MIT professor who was one of Obamacare's chief designers.  Videos came to light in which Gruber basically admitted that Obama's healthcare law was based on deception and the contemptuous belief that Americans are too stupid to understand what the law would cost them.

Prior to passage of the healthcare law, Obama's people bragged about how smart Gruber is.  He was going to craft the most perfect and lovely healthcare system that had ever been designed, we were assured. And now we find out that Gruber was just a cynical academic who made millions of dollars packaging a swindle.

Indeed, Gruber is very much like Kurtz in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the mysterious man in the heart of a dark continent who accumulated vasts stores of ivory and who acquired a firm hold on the imagination of the novel's central character, a riverboat captain named Marlow.

Marlow's description of Kurtz sounds very much like the Obamacrats' obsequious praise for Professor Gruber:
Hadn't I been told in all the tones of jealousy and admiration that he had collected, bartered, swindled or stolen more ivory than all the other agents together. That was not the point. The point was in his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out pre-eminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, was his ability to talk . . . .
And of course Professor Gruber is just one of the many elitists who surround Barack Obama--all graduates of America's most prestigious colleges and universities. Almost all of them have an air of arrogance and condescension, and an unseemly sense of their own intelligence. Like the characters who grub for wealth in Heart of Darkness, most seem propelled solely by greed or the desire for power and recognition.

For some reason, Americans  have been willing to put the nation's destiny into the hands of these hollow and soulless people, most of whom have done nothing with their lives except attend elitist universities where they learned to do little more than talk. We even want our children to get degrees from the fancy colleges where Obama's bureaucrats have been spawned. We are willing to borrow vast sums of money to pay tuition costs so our children can take classes from professors like Jonathan Gruber.

And so we journey upriver into America's own Heart of Darkness: the elite colleges and universities that suck up our money and produce nothing but emptiness.  "The horror! The horror!" we will say to ourselves when we get our first student-loan bill and find we don't have the money to pay it.

MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber
"The horror! The horror!