Michael Winerip's essay on all those hyper-talented, hot-house kids who won't get into Harvard makes a wonderfully touching read. The fact that Winerip is a blue-collar boy made good gives his views special weight:
What kind of kid doesn’t get into Harvard? Well, there was the charming boy I interviewed with 1560 SATs. He did cancer research in the summer; played two instruments in three orchestras; and composed his own music. He redid the computer system for his student paper, loved to cook and was writing his own cookbook. One of his specialties was snapper poached in tea and served with noodle cake. At his age, when I got hungry, I made myself peanut butter and jam on white bread and got into Harvard.
Of course, evolution is not the same as progress...I see these kids — and watch my own applying to college — and as evolved as they are, I wouldn’t change places with them for anything. They’re under such pressure.
Who deserves to win, who deserves to fail? Driving home on Sunday night, I just managed to catch the first part of Anne McElvoy's radio series on the promises and pitfalls of meritocracy. Going to Oxford from a state school in the north set her thinking about the way the class system squanders talent.
Also worth checking: Madeleine Bunting's article on the 50th anniversary of that milestone in sociology Family and Kinship in East London. Critics and admirers weigh in.