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The Race for College
That one time I broke the Internet—and got cancelled—with a single tweet.
I broke the Internet this week with a single low-effort tweet. If you are a reader of mine, you know that higher education is not my main area of expertise, but I received an anecdote from a friend that seemed newsworthy and shared it.
At the risk of getting cancelled (again!), I wanted to reflect on the experience—and why it struck such a nerve on both sides of this debate.
Here is the original tweet:
Maybe you saw it. More than 14 million people did!
It got retweeted by some huge right-wing accounts, like Ben Shapiro and— thank you both!
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I also kicked off a “National Conversation”:
Even this random car salesman started talking about elite college admissions:
It was “one of the most important tweets” of the week, no promo code needed:
I gained over 2000 followers and broke 20K on Twitter. The Streisand Effect is real, folks.
Now let’s take a look at What Happens when something goes viral on the left and the right—at the same time!
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First, I will break down the original tweet so we can find out why people lost their ever-loving minds.
Here it is again:
College admission season update - From a friend: “Niece got 1450 SAT, 4.2 GPA, competitive athlete. She didn’t even get into her safety schools. Going to junior college this year and is very depressed. The POC kids in her class, C students at best, are all headed to Berkeley, UCLA, USC, and Stanford.
Question 1: Did I Lie?
Angry people accused me of “making it up” and ordered me to “post receipts.” Some demanded the transcripts of the so-called C-students, and also for a complete list of this niece’s supposed “safety school” rejections.
Me, make stuff up? Sorry, I don’t work at the New York Times or MSNBC.
In fact, yes, a very good friend texted me this anecdote about her niece after talking to the parent of the student in question. I redacted some identifying details, changed the specific demographic groups to a more general, and I thought, politically correct “POC” umbrella term (which ended up offending some people anyway), slapped it into a Tweet and hit Send.
See kids, journalisming is easy!
Question 2: Is it Accurate?
Shortly after posting it, I realized, hm, it is a little early for spring college acceptances. Argh! I reached out to my friend to clarify—yes, I fact checked myself!—and sure enough, they had been referring to what happened to the student in question last spring. Hey, nobody’s perfect!
(Many people also DMd me to dunk on her “low” SAT score, and yet it is in the 95th percentile. 1450 out of 1600 is excellent, so I’m assuming my haters thought I meant 1450 out of 2400. It shifted back to 1600 in 2016, suckers!)
I posted a quick clarification of the timing, but many of my new haters missed it—they were all too busy DMing me descriptions of how they wanted me to die in a hole.
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Question 3: Do C-Average Students Really Get into Top California Colleges?
So if C-students generally do not get into these schools, especially Stanford, no matter what race they are, did my friend lie to me? Did her brother exaggerate about C students out of frustration? Did the kid herself exaggerate to her parents? Who knows? Who cares! Is grade inflation rampant in California? Yes!
But I did do one more bit of fact-checking, which is more than the New York Times does on half its half baked stories. I found out that one source of this middle-class family’s frustration regarding their only daughter was tied to a few individual students in her class who had much lower grades overall than she did, but who nonetheless scored admission to schools that the student in question did not get into.
In case you were wondering, the “C students” in question were Latino, not Black. Strangely, not a single Hispanic Journalist at the New York Times got involved in this Important National Conversation.
Maybe… because there aren’t any:
More Hispanic journalists subscribe to my Substack than work at the New York Times. Join them!
Whatever the actual reason other students were accepted into schools that this niece did not get into, her family’s conclusion—correct or not—was that she did not fit the right DEI checklist.
Was she denied because of her ethnicity? Or did she write some lame essays? Do wealthy international students crowd out non-rich but high-achieving white kids? Unless I track down the admissions officer who made this decision and shake it out of them, I will never know the true reason.
(Someone actually offered me $10,000 for all these students’s transcripts, and trust me, I promise to reach out if I ever get my hands on them.)
The New York Times Enters the Chat
Ben Shapiro’s retweet of me was immediately hate-retweeted by an irate fact-checker and opinion columnist at the New York Times named Jamelle Bouie, who helpfully pointed out to his half a million followers (correctly!) that my tweet could not possibly apply to this spring’s college acceptances:
He continued his fact-checking for many tweets:
While owning me with my timeline error, Bouie was also trying to shut down a womyn speaking her truth.
Support Womyn’s Voices. Or at least this Womyn’s Voice!
Then, the Notorious NHK got wind of me. You might have heard of alternative history fabulist Nikole-Hannah Jones. She’s the famous Pulitzer Prize- and Genius Grant-winner behind the widely discredited Page One rewrite of American history she calls the “1619 Project.”
A meticulous New York Times journalist, she took care to tweet numerous times in an attempt to debunk my story, by posting graphs, charts, and other data. After all, lecturing about race is a lucrative gig for her:
She did a long thread dunking on my tweet—for free!
The American Mind has published many thoughtful debunkings of The 1619 project. This is a good one from Adam Ellwanger:
Hannah-Jones opened by reminding the audience that her primary training is in journalism, not history, yet she claimed that “people tend to think of the 1619 Project as a work of history.” This is false. Sean Wilentz, the Princeton history scholar, published a letter with four other historians (among the most prestigious experts on the topic of the early Republic) which detailed the basic errors upon which the 1619 narrative was built. In the pages of The Atlantic, Wilentz explained that they wrote the letter because of “specific statements that, if allowed to stand, would misinform the public.
Here’s another one in the Wall Street Journal, in case you are not yet convinced by Jones’s journalistic integrity or lack thereof.
You’ve probably even seen some of Mx. Jones’s alternative history curriculum, since it has become standard elementary school history curriculum in many places.
One Twitter user observed that it triggered an enormous “autoimmune response from the left.” The entire site suddenly attacked a rogue cell they had to destroy. My first Twitter mob! A woke cytokine storm was upon me!
While Bouie and Jones did accuse me of being a racist and a liar, they were relatively polite and professional about it. Their readers had no such restraint. Apparently the Times and MSNBC have a lot of fans who use racial slurs and wish death to strangers. Whatever is Hannah Nikole-Jones teaching children in her 1619 Project?
But by far the worst slander of all was this:
Me? A political operative? A low blow!
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Some College Knowledge
In this chart of UC admit data, you can see demographic change in action.
From left to right, I compared the 2002, 2012, and 2022 data. If you squint your eyes and look closely, you might notice that only one group has shrunk dramatically.
Affirmative action is technically illegal in California. It remains deeply unpopular with adults of all races:
Yet a current professor at a prestigious school that has “banned” affirmative action told me it’s easy to get around this rule, since students applying to good schools answer personal questions on the application that leave no room for doubt.
The UC application, for example, includes Personal Insights questions to help admissions officers gain insight into each applicant’s personal qualities.
UC Undergraduate Application Questions:
1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? Things to consider: Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team or a place — like your high school, hometown or home. (You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community?Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort? How did your actions benefit others, the wider community or both? Did you work alone or with others to initiate change in your community?)
8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?
Whew, good thing there is no room here for a clever student to mention anything that would skirt an affirmative action ban!
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My main mistake? Assuming it was basic common knowledge that some people with weaker college applications sometimes fare better than others with stronger applications, for, you know, reasons. I didn’t know this was controversial! But what I found out is that yes, everyone knows this is true, but you are not allowed to talk about it, ever.
We have spent years doing diversity training, sensitivity workshops, and more at every business, office, school, outhouse, henhouse, and doghouse in America.
But everyone is also required to pretend that these new Equity Rules do not apply, not even a little bit, to college admissions. To voice the slightest complaint or concern that your child’s future may have been negatively affected by DEI-ESG religious fervor is to be a bad person worthy of public shame.
Like many of you, I have had family and friends tell me over the years how grateful they were that their child or grandchild was part [insert non-white racial group here], since they thought it might make their chances at getting into Yale better. What horrible racist told them this? The college counselors at their fancy liberal private schools, that’s who!
On the other hand, I have some immediate family members who are parents to talented, mixed Asian-and-white children who fret that they won't stand a chance getting into a competitive school. Harvard, of course, was sued for discriminating against Asian students. Harvard: Stop Asian Hate!
Someone sent me this medical school admission chart: is this the work of a racist madman, or is there truth to this?
This is what Equity looks like, bigot.
A New Silent Generation
To the claims that my original tweet is an invented fiction I made up and stuffed with lies, I have no defense other than my own personal pledge that it was indeed a real anecdote sent to me.
As proof that it also contained within a larger truth, I received dozens of similar stories.
One woman emailed: “Similar story for our daughter. In March of her senior year, she sat down in the kitchen and asked what on earth had been the point of the huge list of hard-earned achievements that ended up getting her nothing. I wanted to cry and throw up.”
Direct messages started to flood in from parents, students, and even college staff:
I received many more. Are they all liars? I doubt any of the people who sent me the above messages work at the New York Times, so let’s face it, can we really trust them?
Did everyone who DMd me their story make it up? Or are they “racist” to have noticed things? Or…. is it possible that these people have learned an unspoken truth the hard way?
Will sneering journalists at our elite media institutions gleefully declare this frustration is proof of “white fragility”? Cry more, white people! In fact, I suspect many people will be absolutely delighted to see that the new college admissions policies are working exactly as intended!
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After years of rigid Equity Enforcement in schools, the media, government agencies, and on TV, we are now required to simultaneously accept—and deny!—that some students are more equal than others based on crude racial and gender mandates.
The Inclusion Ambassadors who run our top universities are actually rabid Exclusion Ambassadors!
Is a disappointed college freshman a terrible, racist person for drawing an inevitable conclusion that some other mysterious factors might have been in play besides her grades, scores, essays, or athletics trophies? Whatever the reason, the perception is not good for anyone—including the many high-achieving minority students who earn spots at top schools. Do they have to worry about an asterisk after their name, forever?
But don’t worry, bigots—it’s not happening and it’s good that it is! Michael Anton’s Celebration Parallax for the win!
Subscribe now—help me afford a cure for my chronic White Fragility:
Going Viral: Be Careful What You Wish For!
It was fascinating to watch one tweet get debated, denied, defended, as I got sliced and diced, by thousands—millions—of strangers. I watched it happen in real time as I was reading my daughter The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl.
Fun fact: Dahl once threatened his editors that if they changed any of his works after he was gone, he “will send along the ‘enormous crocodile’ to gobble them up.”
I still own the original edition, not the new version sanitized by the Inclusion Ambassadors and Sensitivity Readers. In the book, a favorite in my house, a nasty crocodile slinks through a village trying to eat as many children as he can.
Smart high school seniors today are being gobbled up by another kind of Enormous Crocodile—ravenous DEI- and equity-infected college admissions officers, who have tossed MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech into the memory hole. Instead, they are forcing yet another generation of bright kids with the wrong color or too much “privilege”to stuff themselves into DEI-approved checkboxes if they hope to achieve success in life.
At the end of the book (spoiler alert!), Trunky the elephant saves a group of children from the crocodile.
He announces “we’ve had quite enough of your clever tricks!” Then he grabs Crocodile by the tail and flings him straight into the sun, where he lands with a satisfying bang.
What is blatantly obvious to anyone with eyes to see is that the college admissions process has gone from a semi-rigged game where legacies, smart kids, and rich kids could always find sneaky ways in—to a system that’s being rigged on the inside, by the insiders. The game fixers are now running the admissions offices! The cheaters haven’t gone away—they’ve just switched sides.
Yes, incredible and worthy students with magnificent applications of all races do go to good colleges! But it is not as, shall we say, meritocratic as it was 10 or 20 yrs ago. After all, adjustments must be made so a given school can meet strict equity criteria to get some of that sweet government funding.
And here we are. The price of equity, I learned, is anger and frustration on both sides.
For those wondering, I will soon embark on my first parenting adventure in the college application process.
On second thought, maybe I’ll just homeschool college instead.
This was a long one — if you made it this far, thanks for reading. Feel free to share your own story in the comments section below!
P.S. If you enjoyed this essay, you’ll enjoy my upcoming book, Domestic Extremist: A Practical Guide to Winning the Culture War (June 6, from Regnery). Pre-order your copy today—before I’m cancelled for good!
Thank you—I hope you keep reading!
Learn more at: peachykeenanwrites.com.
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