[FoRK] New Yorker article on Ivy League admissions

mattj at newsblip.com mattj
Thu Nov 3 08:02:59 PST 2005

Quoting "Stephen D. Williams" <sdw at lig.net>:
> I never heard "grinds" used that way,

American Heritage Dict.: "grind: A student who works or studies excessively."

WordNet: "an insignificant student who is ridiculed as being affected or
studying excessively [syn: swot, nerd, wonk, dweeb] "  (combines both 

Quoting "Stephen D. Williams" <sdw at lig.net>:
> If they'd just had the foresight / language to say "anti-Nerd", they 
> would have been ok with history I suppose.

Quoting Ken Meltsner <meltsner at alum.mit.edu>:
> Luckily, MIT didn't use quotas because no one wants nerds...

I think folks are giving [1920s-era] Harvard too much credit here. While they
did prefer their freshmen to be well-rounded, likable, and athletic, they also
preferred  them to be Gentile.  And while the Jewish applicants, many of them
of recent immigrancy, probably did study very hard (it being their only option
for admittance), this "grind" label became a convenient excuse for a) denying
them admission, and b) denying them equal (or superior) intellectual status.

The label is perverse; the smarter the applicant (based on grades), the more
grindy and grade-grubbing they must be, and therefore the worse candidate they
are.  (Reminds me a bit of when biologists answer ID proponents, who then say
"look how desperate these 'experts' are!  They're scrambling to keep up with
the controversy!")

(p.s. - There's a good historical background of this in the book "Harvard
Rules", which contains the Summers/Samuelson story and other details. 
(The book
is about Summers' presidency.))

-Matt Jensen

More information about the FoRK mailing list