Over at Dr. Andy there's a post on gifted children. He makes some interesting calculations about the approximate number of gifted (top 1% IQ) children born every year and the number of people entering Ivy Leagues:
The top 1% represents ~40,000 kids/year. . . later the article talks about "the more mundane variety of Ivy League-aspiring kids". But given 8 Ivys with say 1500 students/class, we get 12,000 kids/year. Making some assumptions about the number of similar schools (Stanford, MIT, etc) and how well Ivies and similar schools attract the most talented students, I'd say the Ivy League does represent about this top 1%. Maybe not exactly, but pretty close.Now, I've never had my IQ tested so whether I qualify as "gifted" is up for debate. I'd personally be thrilled to be considered in the top 1% of the population in terms of brain power.
I have, however, met a slew of Ivy (and similar institutions') students, and I can assure you they are by no means representative of the top 1%. Frankly, I get the impression from many that they were just over-driven workaholics, and if you engage them in conversation you'll find that wall of work crumbles easily when it comes to complex ideas. So while the numbers might make sense, all kinds of barriers keep that top 1% from ever acheiving it (poor schools, unstable home life, no money for college except state school). Those actually attending the Ivys had the wherewithall to work their asses off, the luck to go to a decent high school, and parents who could foot the bill (that or they're incredibly brave and willing to take on $100,000 in debt).
That being said, I've met wonderful people at Ivys who absolutely deserve to go on to great success. Many do belong in that top category. But I'm just unconvinced that the whole student body qualifies as the top 1% of this country's sizeable brain power.
And now I will proceed to drink my morning coffee out of my "Miss Smarty" mug (must be a sign, right?)