Thoughts about Stanley Kaplan: I won…

Thoughts about Stanley Kaplan:

  • I wonder if Kaplan ever ran into Isaac Asimov. They were evidently growing up in the same part of Brooklyn at the same time, and came from nearly identical national and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Asimov was a poster child for the sort of success that Kaplan helped people achieve. A poor Russian Jew from the slums, Asimov was exactly the kind of student the universities tried to keep out, but he got in through luck and perseverance, and made it all the way to a Ph.D. and a teaching post through hard work. He also became a bestselling author and science fiction legend through more hard work.
  • Thanks for the shout-out, Ben, but I don’t believe your mother and I rate it. We weren’t obsessive, hovering parents where your schoolwork was concerned. We certainly didn’t talk about committing suicide over your test scores, or lurk outside your classrooms with towels.
  • Why is the collegiate acceptance system incentivized towards towards “naturals” over “grinds”? Think about the origins of what we call a liberal education. Wikipedia says, “In classical antiquity, the liberal arts denoted the education proper to a free man (Latin: liber, ‘free’), unlike the education proper to a slave.” In other words, it was all about class. Slaves learned practical skills like building and farming, but free men (those who didn’t have to work for a living) only studied subjects that had no practical use, like art and philosophy. Work is what slaves do, and makes you dirty and sweaty; no gentleman would sully himself with it. And being a gentleman was something you were born to, so this attitude translates very easily into racism. In that kind of world, the notion of upward mobility is shockingly subversive: if elite status is available to anyone who just works hard, that’s a threat to those who got it just by being born into the right families.
  • Yes, this whole attitude is antithetical to the American Dream. That’s because it’s an inherently European worldview that dates back to ancient times and flourished in the Middle Ages. In modern American society, it is indeed quaint. But the academic world is still medieval in many ways. Universities still think they are training the sons of nobility to take their proper place as the leaders of the world. And so the notion of elite status as an inborn trait persists in academia, disguised as “aptitude”.
  • I haven’t read Outliers, but I clearly need to. I did read Gladwell’s previous books The Tipping Point and Blink, both of which are excellent.