Smart Ideas: Are Colleges Putting the Squeeze on Asian-Americans?

Plus, the roots of Bolsonaro's support in Brazil.

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
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Oct. 16, 2018, 8 p.m.

Asian-Americans face college-admissions crunch

Alia Wong, writing for The Atlantic

The admissions process for highly selective colleges “incentivizes students to distort their identities to fit the profile they think the people reviewing their applications will find appealing,” even to the level of applicants “over- or underemphasizing” their racial background. A lawsuit argued Monday in federal court alleging that Harvard’s affirmative action policies hurt minority applicants, particularly Asians, puts these issues in sharp relief. “The lawsuit,” although unlikely to succeed, “is a by-product of the fact that too many students are applying for too few spots at too few colleges. The number of college-going Asian-Americans in particular has surged in recent years; it may naturally follow that more seemingly eligible Asian-American candidates get rejected from Harvard's limited slots.” It is taken as a given in the admissions world that, for Asians, “emphasizing their racial and cultural identity could hurt their prospects. Some suspect that stereotypes of Asian-Americans as the overachieving ‘model minority’ lead admissions officers to stigmatize them as boring or unoriginal, or as students preoccupied with quantifiable outcomes who lack the coveted X factor the sought-after schools are seeking to finesse a perfectly balanced freshman class.”

Centrism is still the norm in America

Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon, from the report Hidden Tribes: A Study of America's Polarized Landscapes

Although the simple left-right divide gets a lot of attention today, there are actually seven politically unique “tribes” in America. The “progressive activists” and “devoted conservatives,” on the far left and far right, “show strong degrees of consistency within their ranks, while being almost perfectly at odds with each other.” Whereas devoted conservatives “take pride in the Judeo-Christian faith and American culture" and “believe that their traditional values can transform flawed individuals into people of self-discipline, character, and responsibility,” progressive activists “see those values as being established by socially dominant groups such as straight white men, for their own benefit.” Neither is willing to compromise. Members of the so-called “exhausted majority,” on the other hand—traditional liberals, passive liberals, the politically disengaged, moderates, and traditional conservatives—are open to compromise: 65 percent support “listening to others” they disagree with politically and finding compromise. Giving these moderates a voice may be essential reaching compromise, and countering the partisanship and that is “consuming our politics and putting our democracy in peril.” Nearly everyone, regardless of tribe, is “frustrated with the status quo and the conduct of American politics and public debate.”

Brazil’s elections are about corruption, not fascism

Angela Alonso and Jeremy Adelman, writing for The American Prospect

Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro may speak fondly of “law and order,” but his popularity does not prove that Brazilians want far-right fascism. It actually shows that Brazilians are sick of corruption. “Since 2014, Brazil has been mired in an agonizing economic crisis. The unemployment rate has hovered around 12 percent. Crime has spiked.” The far Right seized upon the crisis to provoke “huge demonstrations against President Rousseff—though she herself was never charged with being ‘on the take’—that led to her impeachment in 2016. They lionized new leaders as ‘incorruptible,’ ‘efficient,’ and ‘moral.’” By and large, voters have responded by repudiating the vanguards of all old political parties, not just the far Left. “Only eight of the 38 senators up for reelection kept their seats,” and that includes old right-wing political parties. “Though Bolsonaro waxes nostalgic for the days of military rule, the upheaval of the past five years was not driven by a popular desire to restore autocracy. The majority wanted—and want[s]—better and democratic government.”

Backdropped by a picture of presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro of the right-wing Social Liberal Party, recently elected Rio de Janeiro state congressmen point their fingers like a gun mimicking Bolsonaro after a news conference in Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 11. AP Photo/Leo Correa
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