Meanwhile David Satter expresses disgust at the changes in the Rhodes Scholarship program in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:
While at Oxford, I studied Hannah Arendt’s theory of totalitarianism and the Russian language and traveled to the Soviet Union. Classmates studied Arabic and Chinese and became respected experts in their fields. The U.S. Rhodes Scholars in 2021, however, were praised not for worldliness but for their demographics. Twenty-one of the 32 winners are “students of colour” and one is “nonbinary,” according to the Rhodes Trust’s announcement. More important, diversity is often their preferred academic specialty, along with sexual harassment, racism and the status of prisoners. The winners are described as “passionate” or motivated by “fierce urgency.” The notion that Rhodes Scholars are defenders of universal values and destined to have careers that benefit their countries has been replaced by training them for conflicts with their fellow citizens.
Elizabeth Kiss, warden of Rhodes House, wrote that the Rhodes Trust today rejects Rhodes’s goal of educating young men for a civilizing mission as “wrong and obsolete.” Oxford itself, she writes, is a place where “racism in all its forms—structural, overt and implicit—remains rife.”
The Rhodes Trust has embarked on a program to expunge the scholarship’s “racist and sexist” past. One feature is a mandatory workshop led by members of the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement, which is campaigning to remove Rhodes’s statue from Oxford’s Oriel College. There is also inclusion training for all Rhodes staff, outreach to black colleges (but not other schools), and data processing to improve the diversity of the selection committees.
The goal, according to a recent statement, is “radical inclusion.” That means racial preferences, which violate Rhodes’s will. Its 24th point states: “No student shall be qualified or disqualified for election to a Scholarship on account of his race or religious opinions.” The phrase “no student shall be qualified” is particularly important. I don’t see how the trustees have the right to change this condition.
Like many Rhodes Scholars IMO Mr. Satter fails to recognize that the program was, is, and always has been primarily political. I’ll give three examples.
One of my high school acquaintances received a Rhodes Scholarship. He wasn’t valedictorian. He wasn’t even in the top 20% of the class. His dad, however, was the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen (an old family friend) and, apparently, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
Just about 50 years ago, shortly after the program was expanded to include women, one of the smartest women of my acquaintance was irate that her application was rejected while those of people much her inferior in intelligence and performance than she received scholarships. “It’s all politics!” she declaimed. I agreed with her and mentioned my friend to her. I don’t know whether that made her feel better or worse. Since then she’s made quite a name for herself in international relations circles.
My final example: Bill Clinton. He was a Rhodes Scholar but his SAT scores cast some doubts on just how high his IQ was. There’s no doubting, however, that he is politically astute. Just to be clear I don’t think that Bill Clinton is stupid. I think he’s a completely typical member of the professional class who is also a brilliant politician.
I think that more than anything else the changes in the program tell you which way the political winds are blowing.