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Howard Gardner
Scholar

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero.

Ivies more diverse than ever

Q: Elena Kagan's nomination has raised the prospect of an "all-Ivy" Supreme Court. Is it a good idea for any institution, or any sector of society, to rely so heavily on a handful of elite universities to educate and train its leaders?

Ideally in a democratic society, powerful institutions ought to have representatives from
diverse sectors of society. This is not to say that the late Senator Roman Hruska was correct, when he said that the Supreme Court ought to have mediocre representation, since the society had "a lot of mediocre judges, and people, and lawyers."

What the question begs, however, is how diverse our elite institutions have in fact become. In 1960, the Ivy League was filled with white males, mostly WASP, with a sprinkling of Jews and Catholics, and one or two token blacks per campus. Now, of course, almost all elite colleges and universities have student bodies of enormous diversity, especially when it comes to demographic characteristics. And so, if one is looking for judicial candidates of superlative quality, the Ivy League is a logical place to look.

However, it is certainly not the only place to look, and I would personally prefer if "the best and the brightest" were spread over numerous campuses. In our winner-take-all society, the trends are in the opposite direction.

By Howard Gardner

 |  May 18, 2010; 5:29 AM ET
Category:  Leadership development Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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