The “more meritocracy” argument against both legacies and racial quotas implicitly assumes that aptitude — some elixir of I.Q. and work ethic — is what our elite primarily lacks.
But is that really our upper class’s problem? What if our elite is already diligent and how-do-you-like-them-apples smaht — the average SAT score for the Harvard class of 2022 is a robust 1512 — and deficient primarily in memory and obligation, wisdom and service and patriotism?
In that case continuity and representation, as embodied by legacy admissions and racial quotas, might actually be better legitimizers for elite universities to cultivate than the spirit of talent-über-alles. It might be better if more Ivy League students thought of themselves as representatives of groups and heirs of family obligation than as Promethean Talents elevated by their own amazing native gifts. It might be better if elite universities, in being open about seeking a specific ethnic mix and encouraging an intergenerational tradition, ceded a certain amount of talent to public universities, and even saw their average SAT score go down.