• Németh Debs

'The Chosen': Getting In - the vanguard of a social movement that changed the American Elite

'The Chosen': Getting In - The New York Times (nytimes.com)


"A few years ago, I wrote a book about the rise of a new educated class, the people with 60's values and 90's money who go to Starbucks, shop at Whole Foods and drive Volvos. A woman came up to me after one of my book talks and said, "You realize what you're talking about is the Jews taking over America."


My eyes bugged out, but then I realized that she was Jewish and she knew I was, too, and between us we could acknowledge there's a lot of truth in that statement. For the Jews were the vanguard of a social movement that over the course of the 20th century transformed the American university system and the nature of the American elite."


By David Brooks

  • Nov. 6, 2005


THE CHOSEN The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. By Jerome Karabel. Illustrated. 711 pp. Houghton Mifflin. $28.

A few years ago, I wrote a book about the rise of a new educated class, the people with 60's values and 90's money who go to Starbucks, shop at Whole Foods and drive Volvos. A woman came up to me after one of my book talks and said, "You realize what you're talking about is the Jews taking over America."

My eyes bugged out, but then I realized that she was Jewish and she knew I was, too, and between us we could acknowledge there's a lot of truth in that statement. For the Jews were the vanguard of a social movement that over the course of the 20th century transformed the American university system and the nature of the American elite.

This is a large part of the story Jerome Karabel, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, tells in "The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton."

Karabel's tale begins in 1900, when young men like Franklin Delano Roosevelt graduated from academies like Groton, St. Paul's and Choate, moved easily and almost automatically to Cambridge, New Haven or Princeton and set the cultural tone at the country's prestigious universities.

When they arrived on campus, these scions of the Protestant Establishment didn't concern themselves overly much with academics. Their main proving grounds were extracurricular activities and social life. Positioning themselves to edit the school paper or join the right secret society, they strove to establish their social worth and to prove how much they embodied the virtues of the Harvard Man, the Yale Man or the Princeton Man. That meant being effortlessly athletic, charismatic, fair, brave, modest and, above all, a leader of men. In 1904, the Yale yearbook boasted of having "more gentlemen and fewer scholars than any other class in the memory of man."

In those days, most people who applied to schools like Harvard were admitted because people who weren't from the right social class didn't bother applying. But Jews, for reasons that are not clear, never got the message. They applied to Harvard, Yale and Princeton even though they weren't really wanted. And because many were so academically qualified, they increasingly got in.

They didn't go to college to compete in the social arena or enter the elite student clubs. From 1900 to 1930, about 1,200 Jews entered Yale and not a single one was elected to a senior society.


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'The Chosen': Getting In - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

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